OPINION 193
February 1959

CONFIDENCES OF A CLIENT - CLIENT WITHHOLDING EVIDENCE OF A CRIME - An attorney in receipt of information from a client that the client was an eyewitness to a crime may properly decline to reveal such knowledge to prosecuting officials if the client does not desire such notification and if the client's silence does not violate a criminal statute. Under such circumstances the attorney improperly breaches his client's confidence if he reveals his client's knowledge of the crime to prosecuting officials without his client's permission.

CONFIDENCES OF A CLIENT - The loyalty owed by the attorney to his client generally controls over any duties under other canons, in the event of conflict.

Canon 34.

Question

Attorney A represents client C. C tells A that he C is an eyewitness to a killing but, for fear of reprisal against his family, has failed to report his evidence to the law enforcement authorities. A tells C that it is his civic duty to aid in the administration of justice by telling his story to the district attorney. C rejects this advice. Subsequen6ly A learns that the accused has been indicted for murder but that the district attorney's office has little hope for a conviction because of the complete absence of any direct evidence to support the indictment. A is convinced that C's testimony would produce a conviction because his statements and the circumstantial evidence corroborate the other perfectly and leave little room for doubt as to the guild of the accused. A is also convinced that C has not committed any act which would make him a principal or an accessory to the crime.

1. Does A violate any of the Canons of Ethics by failing to reveal C's knowledge of this crime to the district attorney

2. If the answer to this "No," does A violate any of the Canons of Ethics by revealing C's knowledge of this crime to the district       attorney?

Opinion

It is the opinion of the Committee that this inquiry should be answered as follows:

1. A does not violate any other Canons of Ethics by failing to reveal C's knowledge of this crime to the district attorney.

2. If A reveals C's knowledge of this crime to the district attorney without C's permission, A will be violating Canon 34.

3. C, having consulted A in his capacity as C's attorney, is entitled to have his confidence and secrets preserved so long as they do not relate to the commission of future crimes by C. It is assumed from the facts presented, that C's silence does not violate any criminal statutes such as Art. 77, P.C., Art. 428, P.C. or Art. 176, P.C. The Committee feels that the loyalty owed by the attorney to his client generally controls over any duties under other canons, in the event of conflict. (See ABA Opinion No. 287 and Art. 713, C.C.P.) In the absence of permission from C to reveal these facts to the district attorney, the Committee feels that A, under such circumstances, can go no further than to advise C to report these facts to the district attorney. (8-0.)