Do Defense Attorneys Believe Their Clients? The Truth Behind the Lies

Defense attorneys are lawyers who represent people accused of crimes in court.

They have a duty to provide effective and zealous advocacy for their clients, regardless of whether they are guilty or innocent. But do defense attorneys believe their clients?

A criminal standing with his attorney
Maine defense lawyer [PHOTO COURTESY OF CITY AND STATE NEWYORK]
How do they handle cases where they suspect or know that their clients are lying? And what are the ethical issues that they face in their profession?

In this article, we will explore these questions and more.

ALSO READ : Is a Defense Attorney a Lawyer? A Comprehensive Guide

The Role and Responsibilities of Defense Attorneys

Defense attorneys have a complex and challenging role in the criminal justice system.

They have to balance their obligations to their clients, the courts, the law, and their own conscience.

According to the American Bar Association, defense attorneys have the following responsibilities:

1.To uphold the right of every person to a fair trial and to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

2.To protect the confidentiality and privilege of their communications with their clients, unless waived by the client or required by law.

3.To investigate the facts and circumstances of the case, and to advise their clients of their legal rights and options.

4.To present the best possible defense for their clients, and to challenge the evidence and arguments of the prosecution.

5.To respect the rules of professional conduct and ethics, and to avoid any conduct that may impair their independence, integrity, or competence.

6.To communicate with their clients honestly and respectfully, and to keep them informed of the progress and outcome of the case.

The Dilemma of Believing or Not Believing Clients

Defense attorneys often face a dilemma when it comes to believing or not believing their clients.

On one hand, they have a duty to trust their clients and to act in their best interests.

On the other hand, they have a duty to be truthful and candid with the courts and to avoid any fraud or deception.

According to the Model Rules of Professional Conduct, defense attorneys are not required to know or prove the innocence or guilt of their clients.

They are only required to provide a reasonable doubt as to their guilt.

Therefore, defense attorneys do not have to believe their clients in order to represent them effectively.

However, defense attorneys may encounter situations where they suspect or know that their clients are lying or withholding information.

For example, a client may confess to the crime privately but plead not guilty in court. O

r a client may present an alibi that is contradicted by other evidence.

Or a client may ask the attorney to present false evidence or witnesses.

In these situations, defense attorneys have to decide how to handle the conflict between their loyalty to their clients and their honesty to the courts.

Some possible options are:

1.To continue representing the client, but to limit the scope of representation.

For example, an attorney may refuse to present any evidence or argument that they know is false or misleading, or may withdraw from any direct examination or cross-examination that would require them to lie or mislead.

2.To withdraw from representing the client, if permitted by the court and the rules of professional conduct.

For example, an attorney may withdraw if they have a fundamental disagreement with the client’s objectives or strategy, or if they believe that continuing representation would violate the law or ethics.

3.To disclose the client’s lie or omission to the court, if required by law or ethics.

For example, an attorney may disclose if they discover that they have unknowingly presented false evidence or testimony, or if they learn that their client intends to commit perjury or fraud.

The Ethical Issues for Defense Attorneys

Defense attorneys face many ethical issues in their profession. Some of these issues are:

1.The duty of confidentiality vs. the duty of candor:

Defense attorneys have a duty to protect the confidentiality and privilege of their communications with their clients, unless waived by the client or required by law.

However, they also have a duty to be truthful and candid with the courts and to avoid any fraud or deception. How should defense attorneys balance these conflicting duties?

2.The duty of loyalty vs. the duty of justice:

Defense attorneys have a duty to be loyal and zealous advocates for their clients, regardless of whether they are guilty or innocent.

However, they also have a duty to uphold the justice system and to respect the rights of other parties and witnesses.

How should defense attorneys balance these conflicting duties?

3.The duty of competence vs. the duty of conscience:

Defense attorneys have a duty to provide competent and effective representation for their clients, using all legal means available.

However, they also have a duty to follow their own conscience and moral values. How should defense attorneys balance these conflicting duties?

 

Conclusion

Defense attorneys do not have to believe their clients in order to represent them effectively.

They only have to provide a reasonable doubt as to their guilt.

However, defense attorneys may face situations where they suspect or know that their clients are lying or withholding information.

In these situations, defense attorneys have to decide how to handle the conflict between their loyalty to their clients and their honesty to the courts.

Defense attorneys also face many ethical issues in their profession, such as the duty of confidentiality vs. the duty of candor, the duty of loyalty vs. the duty of justice, and the duty of competence vs. the duty of conscience.

Defense attorneys have to balance these conflicting duties and to follow the rules of professional conduct and ethics.

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