DUI DEFENSE: if client admits to being guilty

March 22, 2013

How does an attorney reconciles his duty of candor to court and his duty of loyalty to client when a client is probably guilty of a DUI.  One way is to put the government to the test by requiring that it proves that the driver is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  It is commonly known that a “reasonable doubt” is the highest standard of proof that exists in the United States’ legal system and it is not easily met by the People.  Our DUI attorneys will challenge the government and show to the court or jury that you or your loved one is not guilty of a DUI beyond a reasonable doubt.  Thus, a guilty person can be found not guilty at trial when the government does not have evidence beyond a reasonable doubt of his or her guilt.  You can fight your case but you need an attorney to go over the evidence and to give you our expert opinion about your DUI arrest in Los Angeles county.

For the sake of argument: when a client reveals to attorney that he is “probably had too much to drink”, that information is privileged and confidential.  Attorney can not reveal it to anyone unless client agrees.  This concept is so important in the United States legal system that it passed by various legislation into laws; in California, into a Business and Professional Code section 6068:

“It is the duty of an attorney to do all of the following: … (e)(1) to maintain inviolate the confidence, and at every peril to himself or herself to preserve the secrets, of his or her client”.  

So, an attorney can ethically and legally defend a client under bad facts when the attorney believes that the government can not meet its burden of proof.  There is one exception to this rule and it applies to client’s intention to lie under oath, committing perjury.  Supreme Court of the United States ruled that “duty of confidence” does not extend to that and attorney must withdraw or inform the court to comply with the rule of ethics and to avoid assisting clients in committing perjury.

That Supreme Court decision is titled Nix v. Whiteside,  a 1986 case (475 U.S 157).  There, Whiteside appealed denial of a motion for new trial after he was convicted of a second degree murder in Iowa.   The defense in the murder trial was a self-defense claim that Whiteside stabbed the victim believing that victim was going for a gun.  Whiteside testified that he though that victim had a gun under a pillow.  Right before trial, Whiteside, for the first time, told his trial counsel that he saw something metallic in victim’s hand.  Because this was inconsistent with what Whiteside told his trial counsel before, trial counsel prevented him from testifying to that by threatening to withdraw and to advise the court of this development.  The trial counsel believed that Whiteside wanted to commit perjury and did not want to be part of that.  The jury convicted Whiteside who believed that had he testified that he saw something metallic in victim’s hand, he would have a better chance at trial.  Based on that he filed a motion for a new trial claiming a six amendment right to competent counsel was violated.  That motion was denied and all subsequent appeals in the state system were denied culminating with the Supreme Court of Iowa affirming the conviction and ruling that Whiteside’s attorney’s actions were required.   Whiteside filed a writ of habeas corpus in Fedearal court, which was denied, but reversed by the United States Appeals court that opined Whiteside’s counsel violated his duty of confidentiality by threatening to reveal to the trial court that Whiteside intended to commit perjury. The United States Supreme Court overturned that decision and held that (1) first duty of counsel is to discourage testimony that would result in perjury.   But, (2) if the client insists on perjury, “attorney’s duty of confidentiality, which covers the client’s admission of guilt, does not extend to a client’s announced plans to engage in future criminal conduct”.  In other words, revealing confidential information about client’s intention to commit perjury is sanctioned now by the highest court in the United States.

Reconciling Business and Professional Code Section 6068(e) and Nix v. Whiteside;  attorney can not reveal damaging information unless client intends to commit perjury.  For example, recently a client informed me that she had too much to drink when she headed to her friend’s house.  On the way to friend’s house, her car broke down and she called a friend to help her.  When the friend arrived, the friend drove and crashed client’s car.  CHP arrived and realized that my client was probably was drunk before her car broke down, arrested her.  The officer forgot to ascertain what time my client’s car broke down.  That was critical in this case and I was able to negotiate a favorable deal for my client despite her being possibly guilty.  That “lack of time of driving”, undermined the presumption of a blood alcohol level and shifted the scale towards defense – making People burden of proof so much harder to meet.

Whether or not a client informs me that he had too much too drink, my plan is to fight for a better results or dismissal.  Do not simply walk in and plead guilty even if you consumed alcohol.  A DUI is not determined by the number of drinks or by the subjective observations of the officer.  Let me advise you and may be you can avoid harsh consequences and future problems.

To talk to an attorney directly call now (877) 940-4440

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