Honesty is the Best Policy

Honesty is the Best PolicyIt’s been said that “for every good reason there is to lie, there is a better reason to tell the truth”. That’s pretty much true for everything, whether it concerns personal relationships, work or just life in general. If you lie to your significant other, you may end up ruining your relationship. If you lie to your boss, you may get fired. These things are bad of course. We’ve all heard about “what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive”. But nowhere else is it likely more important than when it comes to criminal court and criminal cases, as the stakes are usually much higher. In this context, some of the most important suggestions related to this include:

Don’t Lie to the Police

Generally, the most common, as well as the best advice from a criminal attorney when it comes to speaking to the police after you’ve done something wrong is - don’t speak to the police. The police are usually not trying to be your friend when you’ve already suspected of committed a crime or a traffic offense. They’re usually just trying to get you to confess to what they’ve already decided you did wrong. That’s not to say that people sometimes don’t talk the police out of arresting them, but the vast majority of the time, it doesn’t work out that way.

Even worse than confessing to the police though, is lying to them. You’re already in some amount of trouble if you’re suspected of committing a crime. However, lying to the police may result in you getting in even more trouble. -And sometimes this extra trouble is far more serious than the original problem you already were facing.

Take for instance, a very common situation that we encounter here at Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC. A person will call and tell us that they had a car accident the night before and then left the scene of the accident and went home. Sometimes, their crashed car was left at the scene. Police know that most of the time, people leave a crash because they’re under the influence of alcohol, or have guns in the car, or have drugs in the car, or have a revoked driver’s license.

In this situation, people sometimes make an unfortunate choice before they call us for advice. They’ll sometimes call the police and report that their car was stolen (when it wasn’t). Other times, they’ll tell the police that a person that they hardly knew, was driving the car and then fled the scene after the accident. These days, there’s video almost everywhere. In addition to viewing available video, the police will also commonly speak to witnesses to learn the truth. Then, if the police are able to prove that the driver lied, more criminal charges are sure to follow, such as “filing a false police report” or “obstructing an investigation”. So, it’s much better to remain silent than to lie to the police.

Don’t Lie in Court

It’s one thing to tell a story in court when the Judge doesn’t believe your version. But it’s entirely another thing to lie to the Judge while under oath. Criminal contempt is also anything at all that you might do in court that is intended to embarrass, impede or obstruct the court. Or to lessen the authority of the court. Or to bring the court into disrepute.

If a Judge decides that you committed criminal contempt of court, it’s very common that the Judge might take you immediately into custody where you might sit in jail whether it’s for a few hours or for a number of days. A hearing will typically be held later, and depending on the result of that hearing, you might me sentenced to jail for a much longer period of time.

A common example of a lie that some defendants make in court that later gets them into much bigger trouble is as follows: Often, people are charged with driving while license suspended or revoked. It’s not unusual for a Judge to ask the person how they got to court that day and a person might say that someone drove them to court or that they took a bus. But sometimes, especially in Cook County, it may turn out that a Sheriff’s Police Officer actually watched that person park their car and walk into the building. In such a case, that person might be found not only in contempt of court but would also likely be arrested for a new traffic offense. So, it’s definitely a good idea to never lie to a judge.

Don’t Lie to Your Lawyer

Your lawyer is your friend and advocate in court. Your lawyer is not here to judge you. Especially since you’re paying legal fees to get the best possible legal representation, you don’t want to do anything that makes your lawyer’s job harder to defend you. You want to help your lawyer do the best job they can.

But when you lie to your lawyer or withhold information from them, you’re only hurting yourself. An example is when your lawyer asks you to tell them about your full criminal or traffic history. You should be very upfront with your lawyer about these things. But very often, a client will withhold information about prior cases. Whether it’s because they think that their lawyer will judge them or for some other reason, it’s not a good idea. The very last thing that you want to do is put your lawyer in a situation where they represent to the Judge or the prosecutor that you have a certain criminal background, and then have them blind-sided when they’re told you have more of a criminal or traffic background than they thought. It’s not beneficial in any way to you when that happens.

There of course are hundreds of other examples when lying to your lawyer might hurt you and your chances for a good result. But probably the most troublesome is when you’re taking part in an actual trial and then information or testimony comes up during a trial that takes your lawyer by surprise. Lawyers don’t want to be surprised during a trial. It’s never a good thing and usually tends to hurt your chances for a good result. So, keep in mind that your attorney is bound by specific rules that prevents them from sharing confidential information you discuss. Speak freely and candidly to your lawyer. You’re on the same team.

Don’t Lie to Yourself

Some people like to hear what they want to hear. They want to be told that everything is going to be all right no matter what, so that they can sleep well without worrying. It’s just human nature. People would rather be happy than worried. Yet although this might help you get a good night’s sleep, as you might imagine, it’s not really in your best interests in the long run. In order to make the wisest decisions about which path to take on your case, you need to be well informed. Yet, some clients don’t want to hear the truth about their situation or what is likely to happen in court. Most of the time when you speak to your lawyer, the information will be good news. But regardless of the news, you should want to hear the truth, so that you can choose the best path to success. It’s undoubtedly true that if you speak to enough lawyers, eventually someone is probably going to tell you exactly what you want to hear. But it’s always best instead to just be honest with yourself and deal with the facts and the truth.

Speak Candidly with an Experienced Attorney

At Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC, we’ve been helping people navigate difficult situations since 1990. All conversations are completely confidential, so feel free to contact us any time for a free consultation. We’ll always do our best to give you straight information about your criminal or traffic situation. We can be reached at (312) 644-0444.

Written by Mitchell S. Sexner Last Updated : May 24, 2022