Contributed by: Blue Law (an addendum to his care and feeding series)
How to approach a lawyer about representation before arrest?
One of my more intelligent clients said he would be happy to pay a consultation fee to discuss (hypothetically) what the ramifications of growing and selling marijuana might be.
1. I knew he was not going to waste my time
2. I had no idea if he was (actually) growing and selling, or if it was for a school report or a newspaper article, etc.
My role was to be a fount of information regarding the subject (it also gave me time to think about what he wanted to know before he came in).
Several things were accomplished by handling it this way:
>He had not admitted undertaking any criminal activity to me. I could honestly say I had no way of knowing what he was doing was illegal.
>He knew how to get a hold of me in an emergency; I would remember him and help him with the bondsman etc.
Dont walk in and incriminate yourself! But even if you did, it would not matter much (see next question), but save your lawyer the knowledge.
Whats to stop [the lawyer] from picking up the phone and calling the police when you leave the office?
Wheres the love?!! Ill tell you why - it entails a short legal procedure/ethics lesson.
A consultation would not be covered under the legal concept of privilege. Privilege attaches when an attorney-client relationship has been established, and then only to some things.
(The client-attorney privilege) does NOT cover when the lawyer becomes involved in the criminal enterprise as a participant, or when the lawyer knows that his client is going to lie, or is lying under oath (one major reason a lawyer will not allow a client to testify in his own trial.)
So you may be thinking I havent signed a contract with this lawyer yet, so Im not a client, so I must be totally unprotected! Happily, you are wrong!
At least in my state, when you walk in as Joe Blow into an attorneys office and start talking about anything, your conversation is not privileged but it is confidential.
Those are two different legal statuses. The American Bar Association and every state has ethical rules regarding both.
Dont think of confidentiality as lesser protection than privilege. In fact its better. Privilege is technical; it involves discovery and trial; whereas confidentiality simply applies to conversations such as you would have when choosing an attorney.
In summary, any lawyer who calls the police after consulting with even a potential client would quickly find himself answering to the state board of judicial conduct about why he should not be disbarred. Bottom line, I would not worry about this -
(Shaggy) What about a retainer?
As a lawyer, I would not take a retainer from a potentially criminal client.
>One, because it might (would) look suspicious to a prosecutor, ie. The lawyer is part of a growing or money laundering scheme. And neither I nor my colleagues would risk our law licenses to bust a pot grower! We WANT clients and the lawyer who turns people in will have exactly enough money to buy catfood!
>Two, its not really necessary. Just know who youre going to call, have enough money to pay him and you should be as OK. Same for putting money in a lawyers trust account.
Dirty lawyer tricks
Anytime you feel you are at the mercy of someone who has some control over your destiny it tends to breed paranoia. I dealt with that all the time, especially when court appointed. The defendant felt as if I was another arm of the state, there to get him to plea so that I could collect my fee.
Some folks have written saying their lawyer did this or that; put the screws to them.
In defense of my ilk, many folks caught with drugs are scammers to the core. Most pot people I found were honest. So what I did, (and) what most lawyers do, is set hard rules for everyone.
Bottom line, if you think your lawyer is screwing you, think about why. If you have paid him, truly consider the evidence against you and think hard about whether your lawyer is just trying to present this to you. And if you still think hes boning you, tell the judge you want another lawyer and be able to say why.