If you have recently been charged with a criminal offense for the first time, you are undoubtedly experiencing a range of emotions from fear to confusion; fear of the outcome of your case and confusion about what to do next. The best thing you can do for yourself and your future is to retain the services of an experienced Nebraska criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Once you do, though, you may still be unsure of your relationship with your attorney. If you actually did commit the crime for which you have been charged, should you admit that to your attorney? If you did not commit the crime, but you know who did, do you tell your attorney that? Are criminal defense attorneys allowed to share anything you tell them with anyone else? These are all valid questions for a first-time defendant to have and it is important for you to know the answers in order for you to feel comfortable with your attorney-client relationship.
The Nebraska Rules of Professional Conduct
Because of the high standards to which we hold attorneys accountable, and the sensitive nature of the information attorneys are privy to while representing clients, attorneys licensed in the State of Nebraska are required to abide by the Nebraska Rules of Professional Conduct. Each state has its own version of these rules, the purpose of which is to ensure attorneys conduct themselves in a professional, moral, and ethical manner in the course of the practice of law. If an attorney violates one of the Rules of Professional Conduct, he/she may face disciplinary action, to include anything from a private reprimand to revocation of his/her license to practice law.
Criminal Defense Attorneys and Confidentiality
The very nature of any attorney’s job dictates the attorney will gather highly personal, and often sensitive, information from clients on a regular basis. An in-house corporate attorney defending an insurance company will have access to thousands of policy holders’ files chocked full of personal information. A divorce attorney might learn that her client is on the verge of bankruptcy. Criminal defense attorneys, however, are defending clients who have been accused of criminal conduct and, in the course of that representation, often have clients admit their guilt. Clearly, we cannot have a system which allows an attorney to divulge such information to anyone else. If we allowed this, what would be the point of hiring an attorney to defend you? Nebraska Rules of Professional Conduct § 3-501.6 codifies this common-sense concept, reading 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.
In essence, the rule prohibits criminal defense attorneys (and all attorneys) from divulging any information obtained from a client except under very narrow circumstances, the most commonly used and relevant of which includes preventing a future crime or preventing death or serious bodily harm from occurring in the future. Therefore, admitting to your attorney that you committed a past crime or telling your attorney anything about conduct that already occurred falls under the confidentiality rule and is required to stay between you and your attorney.
If you have been charged with a crime in the State of Nebraska, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced Nebraska criminal defense attorney right away. In Nebraska contact Petersen Criminal Defense Law 24 hours a day at 402-509-8070 to confidentially discuss your case.