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For Book: Lawyer's Obligation
Old 08-13-2019, 08:28 AM   #1
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For Book: Lawyer's Obligation

This question scrolled off the Reddit legal forum before I got a good answer, so I'll ask it here:

You may remember this case: A man was sentenced to prison, but due to a clerical error, his bond was never revoked, and he didn't go to jail (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cornea...l_Anderson_III),

Here's my question: Let's say someone in the same situation goes to an attorney after a few years of not being in jail and explains that he's free because of a clerical error. The attorney has not represented him in the past.

What are the attorney's legal obligations?

What would the attorney be likely to do?

Thanks!
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Old 08-13-2019, 08:58 AM   #2
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I'd find it difficult to believe that the attorney would be required to take any action that would lead to incarceration. That's just based on "knowing" that even if an attorney hears an admission of guilt, they're still required to present the best defense that they're able to provide...no requirement to turn-in the law breaker. In fact, would break the rules if the lawyer did anything with the info learned from the client other than try to.present a defense.


That's not to say the lawyer might feel the best approach would be to surrender, and try to convince the client to do so. Just like when McCoy offers a reduced sentence and the defense attorney tries to convince the perp to accept it. The client has the last word.
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Old 08-13-2019, 09:03 AM   #3
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He has no obligation. You say he wasn't a client, but if the guy asked for advice and the attorney gave it, then there is probably a client relationship at that point.

Attorney client privilege is almost absolute. Now, if the client was seeking information to further a crime, then the attorney can't help him.
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Old 08-13-2019, 10:43 AM   #4
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In our state we have the Lawyer Professional Responsibility Board which, among other things, has the kind of expertise to answer your question. I'd bet that your state has something similar and suggest that you contact them for a definitive answer.
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Old 08-13-2019, 11:13 AM   #5
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In our state we have the Lawyer Professional Responsibility Board which, among other things, has the kind of expertise to answer your question. I'd bet that your state has something similar and suggest that you contact them for a definitive answer.
Many states model their rules from the American Bar Association. Here is the guide from the ABA that can give you a general idea and certainly enough for your book.

https://www.americanbar.org/groups/p...e_of_contents/

And specifically the rule on confidentiality:

https://www.americanbar.org/groups/p...f_information/

Quote:
A lawyer may reveal information
makes for some very interesting stories about information that a lawyer may know but isn't required to reveal it. An example...how about the location of a body?

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/lawyers-ethics_b_2507772
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Old 08-13-2019, 01:36 PM   #6
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I would think that the conversation would be covered by attorney-client privilege.

The attorney would likely encourage the person to turn themselves in.
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Old 08-13-2019, 03:05 PM   #7
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As ExFlyBoy5 notes, the rules of professional responsibility do provide a short list of circumstances where a lawyer MAY reveal client confidences. But based on my experience, I would say most lawyers will reveal only what they MUST, not what they may. If you are the lawyer, it's almost always safer to keep your mouth shut.
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Old 08-13-2019, 07:37 PM   #8
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Thanks, guys. That's about what I figured.
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Old 08-13-2019, 10:00 PM   #9
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It may just be something I've seen on either Breaking Bad or Better Call Saul (or both) but when someone starts to spout something to a lawyer, the lawyer stops them and says "Give me a dollar." YMMV
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Old 08-14-2019, 09:36 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Koolau View Post
It may just be something I've seen on either Breaking Bad or Better Call Saul (or both) but when someone starts to spout something to a lawyer, the lawyer stops them and says "Give me a dollar." YMMV
Yeah, I've seen that a lot, but my understanding is that it's wrong. From Nolo Press and other resources:

In general, as long as the prospective client is seeking legal advice or representation and reasonably believes the communication will be confidential, the consultation is privileged. This is so even if the would-be client never pays or hires the attorney. (But if the attorney declines to represent a potential client who nevertheless continues to communicate with the attorney, the result is different.)
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Old 08-14-2019, 09:58 AM   #11
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Correct. If a person "reasonably believes" that they are getting advice from an attorney then BOOM...the attorney is probably on the hook. This is why you will often see disclaimers from attorneys to the effect of "A lawyer, but not YOUR lawyer..this isn't advice...blah, blah, blah."

The "gimme a dollar" looks good on TV.

This gets VERY complicated when an attorney has to "screen" clients for conflict issues. A classic example is that of a divorce. A jilted lover will go to all the great divorce attorneys in town to "establish a relationship" by telling them something that would be adverse to the opposing party, then guess what? That attorney can't represent the non-jilted lover. So, good attorneys will go to great lengths to properly screen potential clients to keep this kind of thing from happening.

Oh yeah, this is NOT legal advice.
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Old 08-17-2019, 06:41 PM   #12
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Do you think the lawyer would say, "No, don't turn yourself in"? What would he or she advise??
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