If you have been accused of a criminal offense, you may not be sure who to trust to help you. Hiring an experienced criminal defense lawyer is clearly in your best interest; however, you may not be sure to what extent you should confide in your lawyer. If you are guilty of the crime, should you admit that to your lawyer? Maybe you are not guilty, but you know who did commit the crime. Should you tell your lawyer that information? If this is your first brush with the criminal justice system it can be particularly confusing trying to decide what you should, and should not, tell your attorney. To help clear things up, a Nebraska criminal defense lawyer explains the confidential nature of the attorney-client relationship.
Understanding the Job of a Criminal Defense Lawyer
Before delving into the specific nature of the attorney-client relationship, it helps to clarify what a criminal defense attorney’s job is, and what it is not. In any criminal prosecution, the State has the burden of proving a defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Every defendant is presumed innocent until the State meets that burden. Consequently, the job of a criminal defense attorney is not to prove a client innocent. In fact, an accused is not required to prove anything in the United States. The job of a criminal defense lawyer is to protect a defendant’s rights and to ensure that a client is not convicted unless the State has met its burden.
Don’t Ask – Don’t Tell
Most criminal defense attorneys will not come right out and ask a client if they committed the crime in question. One reason for this is that if an attorney knows a client is guilty, the attorney cannot allow the client to take the stand and testify that he/she is innocent because it amounts to suborning perjury. If, however, your defense attorney does ask you a question, it is likely because the answer is essential to your defense. For that reason alone, it is in your best interest to answer your attorney’s questions honestly. If you are uncomfortable with a question, tell your attorney that and explain why you don’t want to answer. A better understanding of the confidential nature of the attorney-client relationship, however, might put you more at ease when it comes to answering questions your attorney asks you.
The Nebraska Rules of Professional Conduct
All licensed attorneys are bound by the Nebraska Rules of Professional Conduct. Rule 1.6 of the Rules governs the issue of confidentiality, stating as follows:
(a) A lawyer shall not reveal information relating to the representation of a client unless the client gives informed consent, the disclosure is impliedly authorized in order to carry out the representation or the disclosure is permitted by paragraph (b).
(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 from committing a crime or to prevent reasonably certain death or substantial bodily harm;
(2) to secure legal advice about the lawyer’s compliance with these Rules;
(3) 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
(4) to comply with other law or a court order.
(c) The relationship between a member of the Nebraska State Bar Association Committee on the Nebraska Lawyers Assistance Program or an employee of the Nebraska Lawyers Assistance Program and a lawyer who seeks or receives assistance through that committee or that program shall be the same as that of lawyer and client for the purposes of the application of Rule 1.6.
As you can see, your criminal defense lawyer can only divulge confidential information learned from a client under very narrow circumstances. The confidential nature of the attorney-client relationship is taken very seriously by all attorneys which should put your mind at ease the next time you consult with your lawyer.
Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer at Petersen Law Office
If you have been charged with a criminal offense in the State of Nebraska, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced Nebraska criminal defense lawyer right away to discuss possible defenses. In Nebraska contact Petersen Criminal Defense Law 24 hours a day at 402-509-8070 to discuss your case.
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