As a defendant in a criminal prosecution, there may come a time when you are asked to, or wish to, reveal highly sensitive information to your criminal defense attorney. You may even decide to confess to your attorney that you are guilty of the charges filed against you or you may know who the actual guilty party is and contemplate sharing that information with your attorney. Before sharing any potentially incriminating information, however, you likely want to know if your criminal defense lawyer can divulge the information you share.
Will Your Attorney Ask You to Divulge Information?
As a general rule, your criminal defense lawyer will only ask you a question if the answer is important to your defense. More often than not, a criminal attorney will not ask a client outright if he/she is guilty. One of the primary reasons for this is that if the client admits guilt, the attorney cannot then suborn perjury by putting the client and the stand to testify and allowing the client to lie under oath. On the other hand, if the attorney does not know the client is lying, the attorney has no ethical duty to stop the client from testifying. Another reason your attorney may not come right out and ask sensitive questions relating to your guilt or innocence is that the answers are not truly relevant to your attorney’s job. The job of a criminal defense attorney is to protect the client’s rights and ensure that the State is forced to do its job to secure a conviction. A defense lawyer does not need to prove that a client is innocent. In fact, the issue of a client’s guilt or innocence is not a necessary factor in a defense attorney’s representation.
The Attorney-Client Relationship
For an attorney to represent a client to the best of his/her ability, the client must feel free to confide in the attorney. With that in mind, the legal profession takes the confidential nature of the attorney-client relationship very seriously. In fact, Rule 1.6 of the attorney Rules of Professional Conduct govern the confidentiality of information a client shares with an attorney. That rule states as follows:
(a) A lawyer shall not reveal information relating to the representation of a client unless:
(1) the client gives informed consent;
(2) the disclosure is impliedly authorized in order to carry out the representation; or
(3) the disclosure is permitted by paragraph (b) or required by paragraph (c).
(b) A lawyer may reveal information relating to the representation of a client to the extent the lawyer reasonably believes necessary:
(1) to prevent the client or another person from committing a crime, including a crime that is reasonably certain to result in substantial injury to the financial interest or property of another, unless disclosure is prohibited or restricted by RPC 3.3;
(2) to prevent the client from committing a fraud that is reasonably certain to result in substantial injury to the financial interests or property of another and in furtherance of which the client has used or is using the lawyer’s services, unless disclosure is prohibited or restricted by RPC 3.3;
(3) to prevent, mitigate, or rectify substantial injury to the financial interests or property of another that is reasonably certain to result or has resulted from the client’s commission of a fraud in furtherance of which the client has used the lawyer’s services, unless disclosure is prohibited or restricted by RPC 3.3;
(4) to secure legal advice about the lawyer’s compliance with these Rules; or
(5) to establish a claim or defense on behalf of the lawyer in a controversy between the lawyer and the client, to establish a defense to a criminal charge or civil claim against the lawyer based upon conduct in which the client was involved, or to respond to allegations in any proceeding concerning the lawyer’s representation of the client; or
(6) to detect and resolve conflicts of interest arising from the lawyer’s change of employment or from changes in the composition or ownership of a firm, but only if the revealed information would not compromise the attorney-client privilege or otherwise prejudice the client.
(c) A lawyer shall reveal information relating to the representation of a client to the extent the lawyer reasonably believes disclosure is necessary:
(1) to prevent reasonably certain death or substantial bodily harm;
(2) to comply with an order of a tribunal requiring disclosure, but only if ordered to do so by the tribunal after the lawyer has asserted on behalf of the client all non-frivolous claims that the information sought by the tribunal is protected against disclosure by the attorney-client privilege or other applicable law; or
(3) to comply with RPC 3.3, 4.1, or other law.
(d) A lawyer shall make reasonable efforts to prevent the inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure of, or unauthorized access to, information relating to the representation of a client.
Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you have been charged with a criminal offense in the State of Tennessee, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced criminal defense lawyer at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby as soon as possible to ensure that your rights are protected throughout the prosecution of your case. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.