For most people, being arrested and charged with a criminal offense is not an everyday occurrence. Consequently, hiring a criminal attorney is also not something done on a regular basis. If you find yourself charged with a criminal offense and in the position to need representation by a criminal defense attorney, therefore, you may feel like the proverbial “fish out of water.” Understandably, you may not know what to expect out of the attorney-client relationship you have with your attorney. Therefore, you may have a number of questions about that relationship. For example, do criminal attorneys need to believe a client is innocent? What if you are not innocent – should you tell your attorney? Should you withhold information or lie to your attorney so he/she will do a better job representing you? Knowing the answers to some of these questions ahead of time will put you more at ease and will help you get the most out of your attorney-client relationship.
Understanding the Basics of the Attorney-Client Relationship
For starters, it is important to understand what lies at the very foundation of the attorney-client relationship – confidentiality. All attorneys are bound by ethical rules and rules of professional conduct. One of the most important of those rules is confidentiality. The attorney-client relationship is one that cannot be breached except under the rarest of circumstances, such as if a client tells an attorney that he/she is going to kill someone. Under all other circumstances, anything you tell your attorney cannot be repeated or shared with anyone else unless you give your express permission to do so. In other words, if you do tell your attorney that you did commit the offense for which you are charged, your attorney cannot, and will not, tell anyone else.
Criminal Attorneys – What Exactly Is Their Job?
Next, it is important to understand what the job of a criminal attorney is, and what it isn’t. Under the American criminal justice system, an accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Those are not just words you hear on television all the time – they actually mean something. What they mean, in practice, is that as an accused, you are not required to prove anything. You do not have to mount any type of defense. The burden is on the State, through the prosecuting attorney, to prove you guilty. If the State fails at that burden, you are declared not guilty; however, not guilty is not always the same as innocent. Not guilty mean the State could not prove you guilty whereas innocent means you really did not commit the crime. The job of a criminal defense attorney is to try and prevent the State from meeting its burden, or at least ensuring that the State is forced to do so before you are found guilty.
Does It Matter If You Are Innocent?
In a nutshell – no. Your criminal defense attorney will work hard to protect your rights and defend you whether you are guilty or not. In fact, many criminal attorneys never directly ask a client of he/she committed the offense. If, however, your attorney does ask a question – any question – do not lie or evade. If your attorney asks you a question there is a reason, and the answer is important. Often, questions are asked because of evidence the State plans to present or because something came up in discovery that your attorney needs to know about prior to trial. Regardless of what the reason is, be sure there is a reason, or your attorney would not ask. Lying to your criminal defense attorney is self-defeating. It often leads to surprises at trial that could completely destroy the defense your attorney has prepared. You are certainly not required to volunteer answers or details; however, do not lie if asked a question directly by your attorney.
If you have been charged with a criminal offense in Tennessee, it is in your best interest to consult with the experienced Tennessee criminal attorneys at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.