what a difference a criminal attorney can make

« Back to Home

Your Right To Testify...Or Not

Posted on

Most criminal matters are resolved outside of a jury trial using a plea bargain. However, some cases do come before a jury. If you are brought before a jury, you will find that the experience can be stressful and confusing. Unfortunately, the decision of whether or not to take the stand in your own defense could just add to the stress. Fortunately, if you've been accused of a crime, you have a right to the counsel of a criminal lawyer, who can help you decide the best course of action for your case.

If you find yourself in this position, consider the following with your attorney before committing to testify at your trial:

The Jury's Preconceptions

One might assume that anyone professing to be innocent would have no problem getting up on the witness stand and telling their side of the story. Personal testimony from a defendant who has, so far, been silent and watchful can be compelling and powerful and play a huge part in the jury's decision of guilt or innocence. Also, many juries wrongly assume that those who refuse to testify have something to hide.

Even so, testifying on the stand won't necessarily be in your best interests. The following factors could change the situation:

The Length of the Trial

Depending on the complexity of your case, the jury might be more than ready for everything to be over with by the time you take the stand. Cases with highly technical aspects, as many are these days, can cause a degree of information overload for jurors. Unfortunately, that means your testimony could just serve to annoy them rather than convince them of your innocence, particularly if you don't have any new information or perspective to add to the case.

Your Ability to Hold Up to Cross-Examination

Your defense case was undoubtedly carefully planned and executed by your criminal defense lawyer. If you take the stand, though, the prosecution will take every opportunity to trick something out of you that can be used to harm your case. Just when you think everything is going great with your testimony, the state could take over and make you look like you might have committed the crime after all.

The Impression You'll Give on the Stand

Being put on the witness stand is not for the faint of heart. It's nerve-wracking to be questioned in front of others. A lot is on the line and one wrong move could send you to prison or worse. All of that means that some defendants may be better off staying seated at the defense table. If you are nervous or afraid, it could send the wrong signal. Only those who are relaxed, personable, and convincing should take the stand.

The decision to take the stand or not is a personal one, but you should seek advice from your criminal defense attorney before making that choice. Speak to your attorney to find out more.