Generally speaking, you should always be completely honest with your lawyer as he is there to help you build the best strategy for your specific case, whether that means a plea bargain or proving your innocence in a trial. But what if you are guilty, but intentionally lying to the police and prosecutors (and intend to lie to the jury as well)? Should you be honest with your criminal defense attorney or keep up your ruse?
An Attorney’s Responsibilities to Client and Court
As it turns out, this is a complicated legal issue. Your defense lawyer will want you to be honest with him and it is his duty to represent you as best as he can and to guard your conversations. But at the same time, your attorney is also committed to not willingly present evidence to the court that they know to be false, including testimony from a defendant or witness the lawyer knows will commit perjury on the stand.
It’s not just a matter of duty or ethics for the attorney to intentionally keep someone from perjuring themselves for his client’s defense -he also could face serious consequences if he knowingly presents perjured testimony. He could even be disbarred under the code of ethics of the American Bar Association.
What Will a Lawyer Do if a Client Says He Plans to Lie on the Stand?
A lawyer will usually try to convince his client not to perjure herself on the stand or to not testify at all. If the client still insists on perjuring herself, the attorney will most likely ask the judge to be relieved of the case without saying why. If the judge denies the lawyer’s request to be replaced by another attorney, the lawyer may ask the client to proceed on her own.
It is always in the client’s best interest to be honest with their lawyer. The prosecution may have impeachment information which shows the client is lying. For example, if the client lies about an alibi, the prosecution can expose the false alibi without previously disclosing it to the defense. When this happens, the client will most likely be convicted and may be separately charged with perjury.
So What Should a Defendant Do?
It’s usually best to be up front and honest with your lawyer and accept his recommendations regarding the best strategy for your case. If withdrawing from the case isn’t feasible or allowed by the court, California allows criminal defense lawyers to question a lying defendant by asking for a narrative answer. Instead of individual questions and answers the lawyer asks the client to testify in a narrative fashion
Lies often fall apart as evidence is presented though and since your criminal lawyer in Vista is there to protect you, you’re ultimately doing yourself and your lawyer a disservice by lying to him. It’s better to just be open and then let your lawyer work with you to create the best strategy for your situation given all of the facts.
If you have been accused of a crime Peter M. Liss can help. Please call (760) 643-4050 to discuss your case during a free initial consultation.
Creative Commons Image by Jason Taellious