I’ve done thousands of consultations with potential clients facing criminal charges. I often find that the more serious the allegation, the less inclined a client is to tell me if they are culpable, which is a fancy way of saying guilty, which is another of saying they did it. I’m not saying they are lying, but the version of events defendants remember is usually the best possible version and generally way different than the case the police think they have. Don’t get me wrong, some defendants are lying to me, and it’s never a good idea to lie to your lawyer. Let’s break down why.

Why don’t defendants want to tell the truth?

I think the first issue is embarrassment or shame. We are always the hero in our own story. We can have a hard time admitting we have done something wrong or hurt another person. Another reason can be a fear that if a defendant tells me they are guilty, I won’t fight as hard for them. A good defense lawyer will work hard no matter what the facts of the case are. A client who is afraid of going to prison might think convincing me they are innocent will make me work harder. But it will make me work harder on things that won’t help their case. Let’s talk about that.

What happens if you lie to your defense lawyer?

This is the real issue- why you shouldn’t lie to your lawyer. Here’s an example, I’ve had clients give me a phony alibi before, and I’ve spent months investigating a fiction when I could have been working on the case. If the State’s lawyer knows more than I do, I’m in trouble, and if the version of events I’m litigating isn’t the real version of events, then you’re in trouble. It’s not that I need rock-solid evidence of every possible mitigating factor in a case. We deal in reasonable doubts, after all. What I need is not to waste time on complete dead ends. I’ve had this play out to the very end in cases. Clients refused to tell me the truth or, worse yet, kept lying to me about what happened. Some clients even demand to take polygraphs to keep the ruse going, only to tell me later they “did it”. The amount of time and money wasted could have been put to better use in areas like mitigation.

The way I will evaluate your options and litigate your defense strategy depends on having an accurate version of what happened or what you experienced. Without that, I will do a worse job as your lawyer, and I might give you bad advice on how to proceed. That is always the thing to be avoided. Every case has a budget of time and resources. The more I waste on bad ideas, the less I have for good ones.