Let’s be honest here – all people tell lies, whether they have been accused of a crime or not. We’re all human, however many people are curious as to if criminal defense lawyers represent clients who they know are lying, and if so, why. Even defendants in a criminal case (particularly those who are guilty) wonder if they should be completely honest with their attorney. All who are accused of a crime, regardless of how minor or serious that offense is, have the right to remain silent. In the case of a defendant, he/she may believe that if they do remain silent, the lawyer they have hired will suspect they are guilty.
The fact is, guilty or not, it must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
When a criminal defense attorney takes on a case, it’s important to realize that it isn’t the lawyer’s case, but the defendant’s. Because of this fact, clients should be truthful with their lawyers – otherwise, it is difficult for an attorney to build a solid case and focus on defense strategies that could possibly have some basis in fact, even if the defendant is guilty. Anyone who is charged with a crime should realize that:
It makes no difference whether you are guilty or innocent.
Your defense attorney is going to take anything you say seriously. Lying to your lawyer will only result in him or her chasing rabbit trails that will not likely result in a solid, effective defense.
Fact vs. Legal Guilt
While a defense lawyer cannot purposely lie to a jury or judge by stating unequivocally that his client did not commit a crime when he/she knows otherwise, it is the job of the attorney to determine whether the state (government) can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the client is guilty, regardless of whether the defendant is actually guilty of the offense he/she is accused of. Ultimately, whether the defendant is charged with sexual assault, armed robbery, home invasion, or even murder, he or she cannot be found guilty unless a prosecutor provides sufficient proof and evidence for a judge or jury to find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Do criminal defense attorneys question the stories their clients present?
In many cases, they absolutely do. A person who has been charged with a crime needs the criminal defense lawyer they’ve chosen to believe them, however it’s not the attorney’s place to judge. What is the lawyer’s duty is to ensure the accused individual’s legal rights are protected, to build the strongest possible defense based on the details and evidence of the case, to investigate and determine how to best protect the client against a conviction and the resulting punishment. It is the defense lawyer’s job to ensure the prosecutor cannot prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to the very best of his or her ability.
Police do not have the power to convict
While many would like to think so, police officers and law enforcement personnel do not have the ultimate power – that of determining when a person is guilty or not guilty of a crime. This decision is left up to judges and citizens who serve on a jury. Our laws are designed to protect the innocent, and unfortunately many who are innocent are convicted of crimes they did not commit. This is often due to jurors forming opinions based not on facts, but circumstantial evidence or even because they simply don’t like the way a defendant looks or acts. Although defendants should only be found guilty in the event it is proven beyond a reasonable doubt he/she committed the crime, this just isn’t how it always works.
Police officers do often play a huge role in whether the prosecutor decides to bring charges, as they work vigorously to secure an admission of guilt or even obtain evidence illegally. Police often interrogate suspects relentlessly; to the point they break down, give in, and sadly admit to crimes they did not take part in. Unless you have been there, it is impossible to imagine the pressure police put on those they finger for a crime. Unfortunately, police often want to “solve” crimes too quickly, overlooking other more plausible possibilities.
Do defense attorneys always know whether the client they are representing is guilty or innocent of the crime they are accused of?
They absolutely do not. In fact, most never really know the truth, however defense lawyers are ethically bound to vigorously represent a client, regardless of whether they believe strongly in the client’s innocence, or believe they may be justly found guilty by the judge or jury.
Criminal lawyers have to take what a client says seriously, which involves questioning every detail. A good defense attorney will search relentlessly for evidence that supports the client’s innocence, but in addition for any evidence/testimony, etc. that could go against the client’s story of what happened – because this is exactly what the state will do.
In the end, it is not up to a defense attorney in Michigan to determine or question whether the client is telling the truth, or lying. It is simply the carrying out of justice, and making certain the laws are upheld while those who truly are innocent are protected as much as possible from wrongful convictions.