criminal defense attorney

Should I Tell My Criminal Defense Attorney If I’m Guilty?

criminal defense attorneyIf you are the defendant in a criminal prosecution, and this is your first experience as a defendant, you are probably worried and confused. The criminal justice system can be difficult to navigate, particularly if you have never needed to learn anything about it in the past. One of the most important things you can do for yourself if you have been accused of a crime is to retain an experienced criminal defense attorney to defend you. Even that can be confusing though if you are unsure about how the attorney-client relationship works. In particular, where are the boundaries of that relationship? Should you admit to your criminal defense attorney that you are guilty of the crime for which you have been charged? Although there is no simple, universally applicable, answer to that question, there are some factors that you should consider when making the decision to admit guilt or not.

The Job of a Criminal Defense Attorney

Before analyzing the need, or desire, to admit guilt to your criminal defense attorney, it helps to clarify the job of a criminal defense attorney.  The United States criminal justice system operates under the presumption of innocence, meaning that the State must prove a defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt to secure a conviction. As a defendant, you are not required to prove your innocence. Consequently, the job of a criminal defense attorney is also not to prove that a client is innocent. Instead, a criminal defense attorney’s job is to protect the rights of a defendant and to ensure that a defendant is not convicted unless that State has met its burden. This distinction is important because, ultimately, it means that a defendant’s guilt or innocence is often not even relevant to the job of a criminal defense attorney.

Why Is Guilt Not Relevant?

Many first-time defendants are confused by the fact that their criminal defense attorney never comes out and asks them if they committed the crime in question. There are several reasons, however, why that is common practice. One reason is the simple fact that many attorneys prefer not to know the answer to the question of guilt. Criminal defense attorney frequently do what they do because they believe strongly in the basic principal that everyone is entitled to a defense. Therefore, defending someone accused of a criminal offense is more about ensuring that the prosecuting attorney does not violate the defendant’s rights and meets his/her burden than it is about guilt vs innocence. Another important reason why criminal defense attorneys often avoid asking a client outright if he/she is guilty is that once an attorney knows a client is guilty, the attorney cannot allow the client to take the stand a claim innocence because it amounts to suborning perjury.

Should I Admit Guilt?

Admitting guilt to your criminal defense attorney will either be the result of a direct question from the attorney or because you feel the need to confess your guilt. If your attorney does outright ask if you are guilty, there is almost always a very good reason for asking – typically related to your defense. In that case, lying to your attorney is never a good idea. Keep in mind that anything you tell your attorney is protected by the attorney-client privilege governed by Rule 1.6 of the attorney Rules of Professional Conduct. Except under very limited circumstances (such as if a client tells an attorney he is going to kill someone tomorrow), admitting to your attorney that you are guilty of a crime is a confidential admission that your attorney cannot share with anyone.  If you simply want to admit your guilt because your conscience is bothering you, only you can decide if doing so is a good idea. If may limit your attorney’s defense options; however, you may feel better if tell someone what you did. Of course, if you plan to accept a guilty plea agreement, you will have to admit your guilt to the court eventually anyway, so telling your attorney is not problematic in that case.

Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney

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 Tennessee criminal defense attorney 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.

Dinah Michael