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I’m Guilty: Should I Tell My Attorney?

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When you’re in a jam and need an attorney, it’s difficult to know whether you should tell them the full truth and nothing but the truth. After all, how can a lawyer work to clear your name if you’re actually guilty? And why would they want to do so? The way the legal system works, however, nothing is cut and dried, and there’s always a way for a good attorney to defend you well. Here are the pros—and cons—of telling your lawyer everything:

Pros of Being Truthful

There are a number of benefits of telling your lawyer the truth, including:

Crafting a Solid Defense Strategy – It helps for attorneys to know all the details of a situation. That’s the only way they are able to devise a good defense for your position. Even if you are guilty, a good lawyer can still win your case or have it dismissed based on mitigating circumstances, but only if they are aware of them. Unless you have a law degree yourself, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to recognize circumstances you can use to your advantage. Your attorney, however, will be actively looking for a way to get you off, such as by persuading the court to accept a guilty plea on a lesser charge.

Attorney-Client Privilege – Your attorney is bound by the ethics of the legal profession not to reveal whatever you tell him without your permission. The only times this doesn’t apply is if you:

  • Waive your right to privilege, which means you give the lawyer permission to disclose information
  • The lawyer has good reason to believe you are about to commit an additional crime

Ensures Your Best Interests – Lawyers like to win. They seldom take a case that looks like they might lose it, so regardless of what you believe your attorney thinks of you, it’s important that they has all the information necessary to ensure your best interests are served during the proceedings. Without full information about the situation, no lawyer can be effective in their work.

Lighter Sentencing – Knowing the full story can also help your lawyer to negotiate a lighter sentence for you based on mitigation, even if they can’t get you off completely. Knowing the truth enables your lawyer to focus less on whether you did it or not, but on whether the court can prove you did it.

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And the Cons (Naturally!)

As with everything in life, there are also disadvantages to telling your lawyer the truth, but these are largely outweighed by the benefits. The main disadvantage is that once your attorney knows the truth, they can’t put you on the stand to testify if he knows you are going to lie, and neither will they actively lie on your behalf.

In most instances, a lawyer who knows the client is guilty but is planning to lie about it will recuse themself from the case, which means they turns down the job and you’ll have to find someone else. Attorney-client privilege still protects you in this situation, however, because the lawyer is legally-bound to keep all their discussions with you confidential unless they know you are planning to commit a further crime.

In very isolated situations, a lawyer may walk away from a case if they has a personal dilemma or a conflict of interest. Sometimes this only becomes obvious once they knows the truth, so it’s a risk you take. For example, a lawyer with personal views on abortion might not want to defend someone on trial for an illegal abortion operation, or where they have a family member who is involved in the case.

What Lawyers Say

Most attorneys agree that knowing the full details of the situation is the best way to defend a client. Even when you have been caught outright committing a crime, if your lawyer knows the truth, they can advise you on your best chances for acquittal or at least a reduced sentence. Otherwise you may find you have wasted your money by hiring a lawyer because they are unable to defend you effectively based on lack of information.

Next time you need an attorney, don’t withhold the truth. It simply isn’t in your best interest to do so. If you’ve been arrested and accused of a committing a crime, Brett A. Podolsky is a board certified, Houston criminal defense lawyer ready to defend your rights and fight for your freedom. Contact our office today.

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