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Should I Tell My Lawyer I'm Guilty?

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By Ephrat Livni, Esq. on October 05, 2015 11:58 AM

You should tell your lawyer your story. Criminal defense lawyers defend both the guilty and the innocent. Your lawyer's job is to resolve the charges against you, not to judge you morally.

If truth was obvious, we would't have such an elaborate process to uncover it. But we do have discovery, investigations, trials, and appeals. Why? Because things are not always what they seem.

The State Has the Burden of Proof

The government has a version of the story that says you committed a crime. It filed charges and now prosecutors must prove that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. That is a very high standard.

You are innocent until proven guilty in the American criminal justice system. Innocence is not a prerequisite to defense. Regardless of guilt, you need an attorney to resolve your case because the law is complex and nuanced, and you need to tell counsel what happened so that you get the best help.

Lawyers Negotiate Resolutions

Maybe you did the crime. You're guilty. Or maybe there is more to it. Facts are all subject to interpretation and there may be circumstances that mitigate guilt. Perhaps you acted in self defense or under duress.

An attorney interprets the facts in the context of the law, looking for errors in criminal procedure on the part of police or other technical reasons for dismissal of charges. Maybe you did something, but it's not as severe as what you have been charged with.

Do not assume that your criminal case is open and shut even if the state thinks as much. Attorneys are also advocates and negotiators; they can help you get a less severe punishment if you do decide to plead guilty.

A lawyer can negotiate a sentence that involves no jail-time in exchange for a guilty plea, or work with a prosecutor on finding you an alternative program. There is almost always something that can be done, even for a guilty person.

Tips on Lies and Loose Lips

You may know what happened factually, but only a professional can understand what the facts add up to, legally speaking. Your counsel is your partner and, as in any other context, partners must communicate.

Together, you will resolve your case. But remember too that a lawyer has certain ethical obligations. An attorney will not and cannot lie for you in court or elsewhere. By telling counsel the truth, however, you ensure that counsel has all the information needed to do the most that can be done for you.

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