3 Reasons To Be Honest With Your Defense Attorney

As the saying goes, never lie to your doctor or your lawyer. The reasoning is pretty clear. The person who is harmed by the lie is typically you. Unfortunately, whether it is due to embarrassment or misunderstanding, clients do frequently leave out important details when talking to their defense attorney. We want to tell you why you should never make this mistake.

Make sure you over share when it comes to telling your criminal defense the facts of your case. Do not spin the facts or put in your theories. Just share exactly what happened and all of your history with law enforcement.

#1 Criminal Defense Advice Is Based On The Facts 

Have you called around to get a consultation with a defense attorney only to be told “well, your options or defenses depends on discovery.” That means, the attorney can only give advice based on what the facts are, including the information in the discovery packet provided by the prosecutor. However, often, an attorney will be hired at or before an Arraignment, which means there is no discovery prior to the initial evaluation. In those cases, the attorney is “flying blind” when it comes to arguing bail or release conditions. The attorney is relying almost completely on the full and honest disclosure of the client. And, if the client doesn’t give a full account of their criminal history, things can get pretty ugly.

If your attorney makes an argument that is factually inaccurate, the assumption is that the client is lying to the attorney. After all, why would a defense attorney with a great reputation risk discipline from the court for dishonesty? They won’t. So, at Arraignment, if your attorney argues that you do not need an ignition interlock because you have no DUI history (because you did not disclose it to your lawyer) and the prosecutor interrupts to say the defense attorney is mistaken, you just set a very bad tone for everyone. Not only does the prosecutor think less of you, they will also be careful during negotiations with your attorney because they do not trust what the defense attorney “knows” about the case. This is particularly problematic in assault cases involving the special allegations of domestic violence. 

Learn more about cases with the special allegation of domestic violence.

If you are unsure about whether you have history because your case was dismissed or charges were “declined,” make sure you share that information with your attorney. In Washington, this can happen with blood draw cases as the prosecutor waits 12+ months for the results from the tox lab. There are many other reasons your case could be declined at or prior to Arraignment so be sure to share any investigations, law enforcement contacts, and certainly any arrests, regardless of whether they resulted in criminal charges.

#2 The Attorney Does Not Need Your “Spin” 

While you may have valid concerns, theories, or opinions about the event in question, the attorney just needs the facts. Those facts include EXACTLY what you did, where you were, what you said, and to whom you said it. They also need all criminal history, including past or pending investigations. Do not sugar-coat anything! 

There is absolutely no way that a non-lawyer has any idea of the complexities of evidentiary issues, defenses, and potential outcomes that an experienced defense attorney is processing at the outset of a case. When a new client focuses on their own theories (many of which are not real defenses or options for resolution), they miss sharing the one or two critical facts that actually allow your defense attorney to formulate a plan.

For example, we regular represent individuals who have lived outside of Washington. If a client confides in us that they were pulled over in Oregon last year on suspicion of DUI, they submitted to a blood draw, and the person is just waiting to hear about charging, we will take a very different stance on your pending Washington DUI. For example, it might be beneficial to delay resolution of your Washington case and have an Oregon attorney resolve that case first. The reverse might also be true. There are mandatory sentencing guidelines for certain crimes and a defense attorney who knows all potential issues you are facing can strategize case resolution to avoid a longer sentence or, in some jurisdictions, obtain a global resolution. Mandatory sentencing is just one reason to be very honest with your lawyer.

Learn more about the basics of a DUI and alternative resolutions.

#3 Honest Disclosures To Your Attorney Can Lead To Better Outcomes

We understand that needing to call a criminal defense attorney is scary and even a tad embarrassing. However, you should understand that this is what we do 7 days a week. We have heard it all and want to help. The problem with leaving out part of the story is that it makes it hard to do our best if we don’t accurately know the facts of our client’s history.

For example, you might come to us with a very serious fact pattern that could lead to a dismissal in district court and refiling in superior court. In that case, we would act quickly and counsel you to do certain things to lock that case in district court. The toughest part of criminal defense is that there is so much strategy. In most cases, we are playing high level chess. However, when we are missing critical facts, it can come out looking like a bad game of checkers. The sad part is that it doesn’t have to be that way.

When you share about your criminal history, mental health history, past trauma and all other relevant factors, you might find out there are better routes for resolution for you that do not involve jail. When we fully know someone’s story, there are often more “therapeutic” routes we can employ. 

Experienced criminal defense lawyers should know ALL of the options in their jurisdiction. In our area, we understand how the right fact pattern might fit perfectly into a therapeutic court program that addresses the root cause of behavior. At the same time, for certain criminal charges, we can actually bypass the prosector altogether and resolve the case with a victim. Since victims do not file charges in Washington, this is an unusual route. However, when the right fact pattern exists, we have had cases dismissed when the prosecutor would not have done so voluntarily. 

Avoid jail. Learn more about therapeutic court options.

A Partnership is Critical 

Hopefully, if you had any doubt about sharing your criminal history or the facts of your case with your attorney, you will no longer consider keeping secrets. There are so many reasons that an open and honest partnership with your attorney is absolutely critical in criminal defense. Primarily, you want to be able to trust the advice you are being given. If you don’t share the facts, the lawyer can never properly advise.

Check out Ryan’s video regarding reasons to hire a lawyer prior to Arraignment. It is a great example of getting ahead of the problem by sharing all the facts, criminal history, and then responding with strategy

3 reasons to hire an attorney prior to arraignment 

In Summary…

Criminal history will always be discovered at some point. Eventually, the prosecutor will run a Triple I and see all of your history across the country. However, if, at the first hearing, your lawyer was already deceived by you and argues there is no history, the damage is done. And, it’s such a foolish mistake to make because not all history is damaging. However, hiding criminal history is.

The attorney-client privilege exists for some very good reasons. Don’t risk further damage to you and your case by failing to take advantage of this privilege. Share fully with your attorney so that you can have the most prepared and skilled defense.

If you have a criminal defense issue in our area of practice, give our firm a call. Our attorneys are available 7 days a week for criminal defense cases. (360) 792-1000

Ryan and Jen Witt of Witt Law Group, Kitsap County defense and personal injury lawyers

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Whether you choose to handle your case alone or engage the Witt Law Group, being informed and prepared is essential. Early involvement of an attorney can significantly impact your chances of a fair recovery, allowing you to focus on healing while we handle negotiations with insurance adjusters to secure fair compensation for your injuries.

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