Unless you have been through it many times before, being arrested and accused of committing a criminal offense can be a frightening and confusing experience. The most important step you can take if you find yourself in such a position is to retain the services of an experienced Nebraska criminal defense attorney. Even that, however, can create confusion if you have never before needed a criminal defense attorney. Many first-time defendants are unsure how the attorney-client relationships works. If that applies to you, chances are that you are unsure how much to tell your attorney about the case. The big question is “Are criminal attorneys required to keep what you tell them confidential?”
As a client, and a defendant in a criminal prosecution, you may be wrestling with how honest you should be with your criminal defense attorney. Should you admit that you are guilty? Should you tell your attorney who else was involved? Should you discuss details of the case with your attorney? These are all relevant, and understandable, questions for a first-time defendant.
Understanding the Law
Every attorney admitted to practice law in the State of Nebraska is bound by the Nebraska Supreme Court Rules governing the practice of law within the state. Nebraska Supreme Court Rule § 3-501.6 governs the attorney-client privilege and the confidentiality of information, reading as follows in pertinent parts:
(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.
The Attorney-Client Privilege in Practice
The Supreme Court Rules are fairly clear. Except under very narrow circumstances, anything you tell your attorney about your case must stay between you and your attorney. In practice, the only your criminal attorney is likely to even consider breaking the bounds of confidentiality is if your attorney believes that doing so is necessary to prevent you from breaking the law or seriously injuring someone. The key, therefore, is to not tell your attorney if you intend to break a law and certainly do not plan to seriously injure someone! It is important to understand that your attorney is ethically bound to keep what you tell him/her confidential because it may be necessary to be brutally honest with your attorney in order for him/her to adequately prepare your defense. As a general rule, a criminal defense attorney will only ask you questions when necessary. Because your attorney understands the delicate possession he/she could be in if you were to admit, for example, your intention to commit a new crime, your attorney will not ask you questions unless the answers are necessary. That means, however, that if your attorney does ask you a question, do not lie. If you feel uncomfortable answering with the truth, say so instead of making up an answer. Communication is the key along with remembering that your attorney is on your side!
Contact Criminal Attorneys at Petersen Law Office
If you have been charged with a criminal offense in the State of Nebraska, consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to ensure that your rights are protected. In Nebraska contact Petersen Criminal Defense Law 24 hours a day at 402-509-8070 to discuss your case.