VIOLATION OF THE LAW¾ ADVISING A CRIMINAL CLIENT TO HIDE TEMPORARILY¾ Whether or not it is unethical to advise a client who is charged with a crime to hide temporarily depends upon whether or not such advice, or the act advised, violates the law.
A woman is charged with a capital felony but has not been apprehended. She goes to an attorney's office on Saturday and seeks advice. He advises her to hide until Monday morning at which time he will take her to surrender to the police. She does hide until Monday morning, and he then takes her to the police. In giving such advice and failing to disclose her whereabouts, is the attorney guilty of unethical conduct?
The Rules of the State Bar of Texas define professional misconduct as including any fraudulent or dishonorable conduct as well as any willful violation of the Canons of Ethics. Article XII, Part B, Sec. 8. Canon 29 prohibits a lawyer from rendering any service or advice involving disloyalty to the law or betrayal of the public and requires him to observe, and advise his client to observe, the statute law (though he may construe a statute or give advice as to its validity). Canon 34, under which a lawyer has the duty to preserve his client's confidence, provides that the announced intention of a client to commit a crime is not included within the confidences which he is bound to respect, and that he may properly make such disclosures as to prevent the act or protect those against whom it is threatened. The Texas Canons do not expressly forbid advising a client to hide temporarily, nor do they expressly require the attorney to surrender his client or inform the police as to his client's whereabouts.
The present inquiry involves a question of law which is beyond the province of this committee. In our opinion, the ethics question in this instance depends upon the legality of the conduct. If the law forbids the advice given or requires the attorney to make disclosure of the facts concealed, his violation of the law is also unethical. His duty to his client does not require or justify violating the law. Furthermore, Canon 29 requires the attorney to advise his client to observe "the statute law," so that, if the client's temporary hiding violates the statute law, then the attorney's advice violates Canon 29. (9-0.)