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Should I Tell a Criminal Defense Attorney I Committed a Crime?

On Behalf of | May 10, 2018 | Uncategorized

Many people who are facing arrest and/or investigation for a state or federal crime wonder how much they should tell their criminal defense attorney about what actually happened, for fear of endangering themselves, their family, or others who could be implicated in the crime. This could involve a hundred different topics about a hundred different aspects of a potential crime, but this often comes down to a simple question: should I tell my lawyer if I (or another person) actually committed the crime?


There is not a simple answer to that question, and ultimately (as discussed below) you should allow your attorney to direct what he or she needs to know in order to defend you. But, importantly, working with an experienced criminal defense attorney is all for your benefit, and, by finding an attorney you can trust, you can take a hugely important step in defending your interests, reputation, and freedom.

Your Attorney Owes You a Duty of Confidentiality

First and foremost, it is critical to understand that all attorneys owe their clients a duty of confidentiality. This legal duty has some minor difference from state to state, but it basically means that your attorney will not be allowed to share anything you tell him or her (with some limited exceptions), and, if they do so, they could face disciplinary charges. Relatedly, you will have an attorney-client privilege with your attorney, which means communications with your attorney cannot be sought or revealed in court in the case brought against you.


Why is the case? Because our legal justice system is based on the idea that those facing jail time have a constitutional right to an attorney under the Sixth Amendment, and part of this right means being able to tell your attorney everything he or she needs to know – including whether you actually committed the crime – in order to defend you. Having your attorney keep what you say confidential is a crucial part of this constitutional right.

Your Attorney Will Defend You, But Cannot Facilitate Crime

Again, the ability and indeed the obligation of your attorney to keep what you say confidential is an important right you have, and can be deeply helpful to providing you the best defense possible against criminal charges.


That said, there are limits to this right. While information that you share with your attorney relating to past crimes you have committed cannot be shared by your attorney, your attorney cannot facilitate crime. For example, if you go to an attorney seeking help in laundering money or intimidating a witness, this is a new crime (as opposed to a past crime), and your communications with your attorney regarding this will not necessarily be confidential. Likewise you cannot use your attorney’s assistance to commit perjury in court, and whether or not you testify in your defense will be an important part of your work with your attorney.

Let Your Attorney Guide the Process of Defending You

Putting all of these concepts together, an experienced criminal defense attorney will want to take the lead in getting the information from you necessary to defend you. In some cases, it will be important to know what actually happened, and in other cases your attorney may want and/or need less information in order to best defend your interests in accord with state law and your constitutional rights. Thus, when you speak with a defense attorney in your jurisdiction, the most important step for you to keep in mind is to allow the attorney to guide the conversation and flow of information between the two of you.

Experienced Criminal Defense in Your Oklahoma Criminal Matter

Oklahoma City criminal defense attorney Patrick Quillian is a former Oklahoma district attorney who relies on his years of experience in prosecuting cases to provide the best possible defense for all defendants. If you are facing criminal charges and/or investigation for a felony or misdemeanor in Oklahoma, contact the office of J. Patrick Quillian, Attorney at Law, today at 405-418-8888 to schedule a free consultation to see what his criminal defense team can do for you.


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