Welcome back, and thanks for joining us as we unpack the rather complex subject of the legal ethics that govern a criminal defense attorney’s conduct in Michigan. In the previous article we looked at the dilemma faced by criminal defense attorneys, as summed up by Evan A. Jenness as a defense attorney’s need to “walk a fine line between protecting a client and avoiding wrongdoing.”
We know you’ve seen scenarios in movies and shows that dealt with this kind of situation. Like the one where the guy who shot up a bank gives his lawyer the gun he used for safekeeping. Or the one where a killer tells his attorney where he hid the knife used in a murder, so that attorney can retrieve it and hide it from the police.
It is less common, in movies, to see someone accused of beating a child with a wooden spoon, and then hand that bat over to their defense attorney with the request that it be quietly disposed of. Either way, these are not legal scenarios, and the attorneys here in Michigan who become involved in their client’s criminal activity risk a great deal. Long story short – don’t expect your criminal defense lawyer to hold or hide contraband for you!
In his article on the subject, Jenness breaks the issue of evidence into two categories.
The first category refers to the items a defendant used in the commission of a crime, which are called ‘contraband’ or ‘instrumentalities.’ The second category noted by Jenness refers to ordinary items which have “evidentiary significance.”
This means any ordinary item or object which is not directly related to the crime in question, but which could potentially incriminate someone. For example, correspondence like emails or text messages, bank statements, or phone records. According to Jenness, “mere possession of ordinary evidence is not a crime requiring counsel to stop possessing the evidence.” This would change, however, if law enforcement was able to obtain a court order or subpoena requires it.
As Michigan criminal defense lawyers, we are often faced with situations where we are aware of confidential information regarding our client’s’ criminal activity. In these cases, we strive to follow all the Michigan rules of professional conduct when it comes to ethically dealing with that information, while still providing our clients with the best defenses.
As a result, unless we are legally bound by law to reveal certain information to the police, we are careful to maintain strict confidentiality with our clients. For example, if we are told or have knowledge that a client is going to commit a future crime, we are ethically obligated to report it. Also, if a client says he or she is going to hide/destroy evidence (which is a crime in itself), we would have to report it. In child abuse and neglect cases, we understand that there is a lot at stake for our clients, including possible prison time, huge fines, and even the permanent loss of their parenting rights.
If you or a loved one have been accused of child abuse or neglect in Michigan, call our skilled defense attorneys at 866 766 5245. But don’t expect us to conceal evidence from the police. We are here to help you, but we don’t cross legal or ethical boundaries. That’s kept us in business for nearly a quarter century, and helped us develop a solid gold reputation with both judges and courts all around the state.