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Should you testify in your own criminal case?

On Behalf of | Jul 27, 2022 | Criminal Defense |

Figuring out how to defend yourself against criminal charges can be enormously stressful. You might worry about what the prosecution’s witnesses will say about you, the physical evidence that will be presented to the judge and jury, and the penalties that may be levied against you. You might feel compelled to testify in your own defense, just so that you can tell your side of the story. But is doing so really in your best interests?

Deciding whether to testify at your own trial

The decision of whether to testify in your trial is one that you’ll ultimately have to make, hopefully after careful consultation with your attorney. Keep in mind, though, that you’re not required to testify in your case, as you have a constitutional right against self-incrimination.

As you consider the possibility of testifying, you should take the following considerations into account:

  • What can you add to your case? There’s likely to be a lot of evidence presented in your trial, so you’ll want to consider whether your testimony will really add anything, or if you’ll just be setting yourself up to get tripped up by the prosecution. Remember, you’re innocent until proven guilty.
  • Are you concerned that the jury is biased? If so, then going to the witness stand may put you at greater risk of being convicted, regardless of what you have to say. The jury is tasked with assessing witness credibility, so they don’t have to believe anything that you say.
  • You don’t have the same experience testifying as the prosecution’s witnesses do, which means that you may be more susceptible to cross-examination. Jurors may misinterpret your natural nervousness, thereby actually increasing your risk of being convicted.
  • Testifying can shift the focus of the case. As you navigate your defense, you should be trying to poke holes in the prosecution’s case so as to raise reasonable doubt as to your guilt. By testifying, though, you may inadvertently shift the focus away from whether the prosecution has proven your guilt to whether you have successfully proven your innocence.
  • Whether you have a criminal history that the prosecution will use to impeach you and thereby damage your credibility. This history may otherwise be inadmissible but can be damaging to the jury’s perception of you and your innocence if it’s allowed in during your testimony.
  • The status of your case and whether you feel that you absolutely have to testify to turn your case around. This can be a difficult decision to make and requires you to make an in-depth assessment of the evidence presented up until that point in your case. Given that juries are unpredictable, this can be a difficult analysis to conduct.

There very well may be other factors that are important to your decision to testify, so make sure you discuss the circumstances of your case with your criminal defense attorney. You want to make sure that you’re making the decision that is best for your case and your future.

Make sure you’re preparing your criminal case as fully as possible

A lot of successful litigation comes from thorough trial preparation. Therefore, if you want to maximize your ability to beat the prosecution, then you need to ensure that you’re putting in the time and effort necessary on the front end to build the robust criminal defense that you deserve. If you need help in that regard, then you might want to turn to an experienced criminal defense attorney for assistance.