If you were recently arrested and charged with a crime, you were undoubtedly advised to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Hopefully, you chose to heed that advice. If this is your first experience as a defendant, you may be uncertain about the nature of your relationship with your attorney. For example, when your attorney asks you questions, how much should you tell him/her? A Murfreesboro criminal defense lawyer at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby explains how much you should tell your criminal defense attorney.
Understanding Attorney-Client Privilege
If you have never before been involved in the criminal justice system, your first meeting with a criminal defense attorney can be intimidating as you likely won’t know what to expect. Hopefully, you have not discussed any of the details of your case with anyone prior to your initial consultation with your attorney. When your attorney asks you for details, however, you may hesitate to answer honestly regardless of whether you committed the crime you are accused of committing. Because of this natural hesitation, you need to understand the concept of attorney-client privilege. In the State of Tennessee, T.C.A. § 23-3-105 governs attorney-client privilege, stating as follows:
No attorney, solicitor or counselor shall be permitted, in giving testimony against a client, or person who consulted the attorney, solicitor or counselor professionally, to disclose any communication made to the attorney, solicitor or counselor as such by such person, during the pendency of the suit, before or afterwards, to the person’s injury.
In essence, the attorney-client privilege creates a confidential relationship between you and your attorney. Except under limited circumstances, your criminal defense attorney cannot repeat anything you tell him/her if the attorney-client privilege exists. The most notable exceptions to the privilege apply if a client is in the middle of, or planning to, commit a crime/fraud and/or if someone is in danger. In that case, the attorney may disclose information. If the crime was in the past, however, communications with your attorney are almost always confidential.
Why Should I Divulge Anything Incriminating to My Attorney?
Knowing that your attorney cannot repeat anything you say to an outside party may still not be sufficient to make you feel comfortable divulging incriminating information to your attorney. After all, why admit guilt to anyone? The simple answer is that your criminal defense attorney cannot protect and defend you without all the relevant facts. For a criminal defense lawyer, there are few things worse than being surprised by evidence or testimony in the middle of a trial.
Because an attorney cannot knowingly allow a client to commit perjury, your attorney may not ask you direct questions about your guilt or innocence. The questions your attorney does ask you, however, are questions that need to be answered in order to provide you with the best representation possible. For example, imagine you are charged with burglarizing a home. Instead of asking you outright if you committed the burglary, your attorney may ask you if there is any reason the police will find your fingerprints inside the home. If you answer “no,” and your prints turn up during the police investigation, you only hurt yourself by not giving your attorney advance warning. Likewise, if you are charged with a crime involving a victim, be honest about your prior relationship (if any) with the alleged victim. Your attorney may be able to portray that relationship in a positive (or at least neutral) light if he/she has the time to do so; however, if that prior relationship comes up for the first time at trial, your attorney’s ability to neutralize the negative impact it may have is severely handicapped.
Always keep in mind that it is your criminal defense attorney’s ethical obligation to protect and defend you. While you should never discuss details of a criminal prosecution with anyone else, it is equally important not to withhold information from your attorney. If you are unsure how to answer a question, or how much information to divulge, just be honest with your attorney about your reservations.
Contact a Murfreesboro Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you were recently charged with a criminal offense, consult with an experienced Murfreesboro criminal defense lawyer at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby as soon as possible to discuss your legal options. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your free appointment.