You made a mistake --a big one-- and committed a crime. Now, you're under arrest and you're facing prosecution. What do you tell your attorney? Do you admit your guilt or maintain your innocence? Here's how to handle that first meeting.

You can go ahead and tell your attorney that you're guilty at the very first meeting.

Knowing that you're guilty won't make your attorney defend you any less vigorously than if you were innocent. What he or she thinks of your crime (or you) doesn't matter. Criminal attorneys wouldn't be in their line of work if they didn't believe that everyone has a right to a good legal defense.

Your attorney also has a legal and ethical obligation not to reveal anything about past crimes you confess to in your private consultations. So you don't have to worry that your admission of guilt will ever get used against you. There may be some tactical advantages to this as well.

If your attorney already knows that you're guilty, you're less likely to hide information or hold back anything that could potentially be a problem for your defense down the line. Your attorney can probably better gauge the likelihood of your conviction, or be able to tell you what type of plea deal you might be able to negotiate.

Once all the details are out, your attorney may see a possible defense that you don't or find mitigating factors that could get you a lighter sentence.

Your attorney may not really want to know right away whether you're guilty or not.

The problem with letting your attorney know that you're guilty from the start is that you automatically hem your attorney into a narrow avenue of defense. Because your attorney is an officer of the court, he or she cannot knowingly lie in court nor allow you to lie in court.

That means that once you admit your guilt, your attorney can stand up in court and say, "There's no solid proof that my client committed any crime," or something to that effect, but your attorney cannot say, "My client is innocent." Your attorney also can't allow you to take the stand and testify on your own behalf if you intend to deny your crime or lie about what happened in any way.

Without the actual knowledge of your guilt, your attorney is legally and ethically free to assert any scenario that reasonably fits the facts of the case. With the knowledge of your guilt, your attorney is limited to other strategies, such as attacking the validity of the evidence or the credibility of any witnesses against you.

Your best tactic is to listen carefully to your attorney's questions during your first meeting.

More than likely, the first question your attorney is going to ask you is something along the lines of "What are you accused of doing and what evidence is there against you?" Neither of those questions requires you to discuss your guilt or innocence and you can usually answer them completely without doing either.

Once your attorney has had a chance to evaluate the situation, then it's time to ask your attorney if you should discuss the event in more detail. If he or she asks for the truth, be candid. If he or she doesn't want to know, you should probably listen and keep the information to yourself. For more information, contact a professional like Maggio Saverpierre.