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Duty of Candor vs. Client Confidence in Michigan

Lawyers who defend individuals accused of driving under the influence of alcohol in Michigan face several dilemmas. Not the least of these is the apparent conflict between the duty of candor to the court and the duty of preserving client confidentiality.

However, when the duty of candor vs. client confidence in Michigan question is properly and thoroughly considered, it is possible for an experienced DUI defense attorney to strike a proper balance between the two and provide the vigorous representation people deserve while meeting the requirements of the court.

General Principles of Preserving Client Confidences

A lawyer has a duty to protect all secrets and confidences disclosed by someone who seeks counsel. The Model Rules of Professional Responsibility that govern attorney conduct affirm that clients must be able to communicate frankly and fully to receive the best possible legal representation. This is true even regarding information that may be considered legally detrimental or simply embarrassing in nature.

The Duty of Candor to the Court

However, there are also instances in which the duty of preserving confidentiality may be called into question by the duty of candor toward the tribunal. This refers to a practitioner’s responsibility to avoid making any false statements to the court and to avoid any failure to correct prior false statements they previously made to the court.

The potential for conflict between this principle and the principle of client confidentiality is obvious and, at times, extremely problematic for defense lawyers. For more information, individuals should schedule a consultation to learn more about the difference between duty of candor vs. client confidence in Michigan.

Striking the Right Balance in DUI Cases

For drunk driving attorneys, the issue of whether they must disclose someone’s prior history of related offenses can be difficult. Questions about this issue may arise during plea negotiations and declarations as well as in the context of probation and sentencing recommendations. Given that a prior offense record is widely considered to be a matter of public record, some may question whether this information constitutes client confidence or a secret at all.

When it comes to an attorney’s ability to fulfill both duties in these scenarios, some key distinctions are necessary. If the court does not appear to be placing any reliance on a defense lawyer to provide corroboration to an erroneous belief that no prior DUI record exists, there is no ethical duty for the attorney to make a disclosure to the contrary. However, if a judge directly asks the lawyer whether there is a preexisting criminal history, counsel should urge the court not to rely on their personal knowledge of the defendant’s record. Doing so represents appropriate adherence to the duty of candor to the tribunal.

The bottom line is that an effective DUI attorney may be able to prevent undue disclosure of unfavorable information concerning someone’s past history but may not take steps to misrepresent or mislead the court upon direct inquiry from the tribunal.

Providing Effective Advocacy and Furthering Sound Public Policy

The work of a DUI defense attorney involves a delicate balancing of competing responsibilities to both client and court. While there can be no doubt that outright misrepresentations to judges and others involved in the administration of justice represent an unacceptable ethical violation, there are many contexts in which a client’s ability to freely communicate details of prior convictions to a lawyer can prove beneficial.

When sensibly approached, the duty of candor vs. client confidence in Michigan dilemma can yield surprisingly positive outcomes. An adept attorney can also strike a balance between their duties to the court and to their clients to uphold their responsibilities to both.