Criminal Defense Attorneys Fight Hard For Their Clients, But They Must Fight Fair
No matter how much your Colorado Springs criminal defense lawyer wants to secure a dismissal, acquittal, or other favorable outcomes for you as their client, they must abide by specific ethical rules for defense attorneys. Criminal defendants look to their lawyers to provide sound advice and fiercely protect them from prosecutors who are on a mission to obtain a conviction.
Breaching these rules can get attorneys into serious trouble and result in disciplinary action by the Colorado Supreme Court, including the suspension or loss of their law license.
The challenge for criminal defense lawyers comes from having obligations to both their clients and the justice system as a whole. As the American Bar Association’s (ABA) “Criminal Justice Standards For The Defense Function” notes:
“Defense counsel have the difficult task of serving both as officers of the court and as loyal and zealous advocates for their clients. The primary duties that defense counsel owe to their clients, to the administration of justice, and as officers of the court, are to serve as their clients’ counselor and advocate with courage and devotion; to ensure that constitutional and other legal rights of their clients are protected; and to render effective, high-quality legal representation with integrity.”
Because of their dual responsibilities, defense attorneys take their jobs seriously, knowing that they hold the fate and future of their clients in their hands.
Here are three common ethical rules for defense attorneys that they face in their representation of you in court:
In The End, The Client Makes The Decision
Attorneys work for their clients. The client is the one whose future is at stake, and the client is responsible for paying the attorney’s fees for their hard work and legal advice. But what happens when a client ignores their attorney’s advice about case strategy or tactics, including the lawyer’s opinion about whether the client should take the stand in their own defense or accept a plea bargain?
In the end, the ethical rules make clear that the client gets to make the final call. The ABA’s Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 1.2(a) states that “In a criminal case, the lawyer shall abide by the client’s decision, after consultation with the lawyer, as to a plea to be entered, whether to waive jury trial and whether the client will testify.”
Similarly, The ABA Standards for Criminal Justice state: “[a]lthough it is highly improper for counsel to demand that the defendant follow what counsel perceives as the desirable course or for counsel to coerce a client’s decision through misrepresentation or undue influence, counsel is free to engage in fair persuasion and to urge the client to follow the proffered professional advice.”
Related Reading: How To Hire A Criminal Defense Lawyer
The Attorney-Client Privilege and The Crime-Fraud Exception
One of the most well-known ethical rules for defense attorneys is the attorney-client privilege. This rule forms the bedrock of the relationship between a lawyer and the person they represent. A criminal defendant needs to be able to speak freely and openly with their lawyer, knowing that anything they say, to reverse the familiar Miranda warning, can’t and won’t be used against them in a court of law (or anywhere else).
That means a defendant charged with murder can tell their lawyer that they did commit the crime and will not need to worry about the lawyer passing that information on to the judge or prosecutors. But while the attorney-client privilege almost always protects comments regarding past acts, the key is that these actions must be in the past. Statements regarding ongoing crimes and the intent to commit a crime in the future may not be eligible for the protection of confidentiality.
The “crime-fraud” exception to the attorney-client privilege not only takes certain statements outside of the cloak of confidentiality but may also require the lawyer to notify authorities about the impending crime.
As the U.S. Supreme Court explains, “It is the purpose of the crime-fraud exception to the attorney-client privilege to assure that the “seal of secrecy” between lawyer and client does not extend to communications made for the purpose of getting advice for the commission of a fraud or crime.”
This means that while a defendant can freely tell their lawyer that they committed the crime they are accused of, they cannot say to the lawyer in confidence that they plan on intimidating a witness into not testifying or destroying evidence, for example. If they do, the lawyer is responsible for reporting the intention to law enforcement.
Ethical Rules Prevent Attorneys From Knowingly Presenting False Testimony
Attorneys have a duty not to present false testimony, mislead the court, or offer evidence that the lawyer knows to be false. But because of the special protections provided to criminal defendants, this duty does not allow an attorney to refuse to offer a client’s testimony when the lawyer only reasonably believes but does not know, that the client’s testimony is false. If, however, the lawyer later comes to know that testimony presented under oath is false, they may need to disclose that fact to the court.
Ethical Rules For Defense Attorneys In Colorado Are A Protection For Defendants
The ethical rules defense attorneys must follow are a cornerstone of the American justice system. These rules ensure that all parties play fair and uphold the principle that you are innocent until you are proven guilty. If you face criminal charges in Colorado Springs, you need criminal defense lawyers who take their ethical responsibilities as seriously as the charges against you.