The job of an attorney is to represent his or her client’s interests while observing standards for ethical behavior in the legal profession. If an attorney behaves in a way that is unethical, he or she may be liable for malpractice.
According to the American Bar Association, it is a breach of legal ethics for an attorney to offer evidence before the court that he or she knows to be false.
What is the rule against offering false evidence?
The ABA addresses the introduction of false evidence in Rule 3.3 of its Model Rules of Professional Conduct. It states that the attorney, as an officer of the court, has a responsibility to prevent false evidence from misleading the trier of fact (e.g., a judge or jury).
This means that if an attorney knows certain evidence to be false, he or she cannot offer it to the court. This is true even if the client wants or asks for its inclusion.
What are the exceptions and limitations to this rule?
The rule does not apply if the reason that the attorney is offering the evidence is to establish that it is false to the trier of fact in the proceedings.
Additionally, the rule only applies to evidence that the attorney knows for a fact to be false. If the attorney believes the evidence to be false but does not have certain knowledge of it, the rule does not apply and the attorney is free to introduce the evidence if he or she so chooses.
If an attorney knows that a client will give false testimony in court, he or she cannot allow the client to testify. Otherwise, the attorney has an obligation to honor the decision of a client to give testimony in court.