Posted on: November 25, 2021 by Huntersure LLC.
Nearly 80,000 people each year find themselves facing federal criminal charges. Most of these defendants will hire a lawyer to represent them, negotiate plea bargains, and aim for an acquittal. Inevitably, though, some of these defendants have committed the crime that they are charged with. In such cases, how can a lawyer manage a client that they believe to be guilty? Is it unethical to defend a person who may be guilty? It’s important to be aware of lawyer ethical obligations when dealing with guilty clients. If you’re wondering how attorneys handle clients who may be guilty, consider the following factors that often impact a case.
The first factor to take into consideration is the obligation a lawyer has to their client. An attorney is obligated to act in their client’s best interest, first and foremost. This means that if they are hired to defend a client, they must do so with due diligence — even if they personally believe the client to be guilty. This is outlined in Canon 7 of the ABA Model Code of Professional Responsibility, which states that “the duty of a lawyer, both to his client and to the legal system, is to represent his client zealously within the bounds of the law.”
Yet another important consideration is the difference between factual and legal guilt. Factual guilt refers to whether a defendant did commit the crime they are accused of. On the other hand, legal guilt refers to whether their guilt can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. For example, a defendant may have committed a burglary — and thus be factually guilty — but if there is no evidence, they cannot be found legally guilty.
An attorney may face lawyer professional liability if they commit unethical actions in order to defend a client who may be guilty. For example, if an attorney tampers with evidence, this may be cause for dismissal from a case or disbarment in severe circumstances. Evidence is ultimately the most important consideration when determining the legal liability of both a client and an attorney. The quality of the evidence is often a make-or-break issue for determining whether a defendant can be legally absolved of guilt.
Finally, lawyers must take the circumstances surrounding a client’s charges into consideration, too. Just because a client admits guilt, it does not mean that they are, in fact, guilty. Some defendants knowingly accept charges in order to cover for a friend or loved one. In some cases, they are guilty of a crime, but not the one they are charged with. An admission of guilt does not obligate a lawyer to abandon their defense, and to do so would be unethical.
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