Rep. Edward Buchanan, R-Torrington, is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. He said the bill would make it a felony for a person who knows that a convicted sex offender has failed to register with the state to withhold that information and fail to notify law enforcement.
The judiciary committee determined that a person shouldn’t have to commit an affirmative act to be convicted of this crime. Then the legislators delved into a discussion of the right to remain silent:
Rep. Floyd Esquibel, D-Cheyenne, asked whether people have the right to remain silent if a police officer asks them questions.
responded that people have the right to remain silent if they’re in
police custody, "and you’re already being interrogated." He said he
didn’t believe the right against self-incrimination was applicable to
the proposed legislation.
Rep. Colin Simpson, R-Cody, responded
that people have the right to remain silent so they don’t incriminate
themselves. He said this bill would make it a crime for people not to
talk and incriminate themselves.
"I just have the feeling that
we’re criminalizing victims or family members of offenders, because
they have knowledge of offenders," Simpson said.
What will this mean for lawyers? Each state’s ethics codes vary, but the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 1.6 states the following:
(b) A lawyer may reveal information relating to the
representation of a client to the extent the lawyer reasonably believes
(1) to prevent reasonably certain death or substantial bodily harm;
(2) to prevent the client from committing a crime or
fraud that is reasonably certain to result in substantial injury to the
financial interests or property of another and in furtherance of which
the client has used or is using the lawyer’s services;
(3) to prevent, mitigate or rectify substantial
injury to the financial interests or property of another that is
reasonably certain to result or has resulted from the client’s
commission of a crime or fraud in furtherance of which the client has
used the lawyer’s services;
(4) to secure legal advice about the lawyer’s compliance with these Rules;
(5) to establish a claim or defense on behalf of the
lawyer in a controversy between the lawyer and the client, to establish
a defense to a criminal charge or civil claim against the lawyer based
upon conduct in which the client was involved, or to respond to
allegations in any proceeding concerning the lawyer’s representation of
the client; or
(6) to comply with other law or a court order.
Reporting that a client has not complied with registration requirements doesn’t fit within any of the above categories. Yet, it seems that under the broad language of the legislation, an attorney would be guilty of a felony for failing to report that a client has not registered as a sex offender. Any thoughts on this?