If you are charged with a crime and are preparing to go to trial for it, you may want to testify in court as a way of defending yourself. While many defendants want to do this at their own criminal trials, lawyers often persuade them not to. It is your choice, though, and you can choose to testify if you really want to. Before you make this decision, it's important to understand the common reasons criminal defense attorneys may recommend not to do this.
It Is Not Your Job To Prove Innocence
Before examining the other reasons not to testify, you should realize how the court system is designed. When the police arrest you and charge you with a crime, it might seem like you are guilty until proven innocent, but this is not the case. You have the right to a fair trial, and the prosecution handling the case is obligated to prove your guilt. In other words, you are innocent until proven guilty.
It is the job of the prosecutor to prove that you are guilty, and he or she will try to do this by presenting incriminating evidence and by calling witnesses to testify. If there is not enough evidence to prove your guilt in the crime, the court cannot legally prosecute you for the crime.
Because of this, you must realize it is not your responsibility to prove you are innocent. Let your attorney handle this for you and let the evidence speak for itself.
You Have The Legal Right Not To Testify
Exercising your legal rights can often be beneficial for people accused of crimes, and one of these rights is that you do not have to testify at your own trial. If you decide to testify, you can also exercise your Fifth Amendment right. This amendment gives you the right to stay silent when asked a question, but only if your answer would be incriminating to yourself.
Pleading the Fifth Amendment does not always look good in court. Because of this, your attorney may suggest not testifying at your trial in order to avoid any negative effects this may have.
Criminal attorneys understand how prosecutors handle courtroom criminal cases. They can sometimes be belligerent with their questions, and this can cause a defendant to get stumped, angry, or nervous. The way you answer the questions and react to them can play a role in the jurors' decision about the case.
You Might Answer The Questions Wrong
If you testify in court, you will have to take an oath to tell the truth. Even if you are completely innocent and are planning on telling the truth, the things you say might come out wrong. Prosecutors can often ask trick questions, and it is hard to prepare for all the potential trick questions he or she might ask during your trial.
If you do not understand a question correctly or answer one with information that makes you look bad, it could cause harm to your case. Your nerves also are likely to kick in when you are on the stand, and this could leave your voice shaky. A shaky voice might lead jurors to believe you are lying, when really you are just nervous.
Avoiding the stand during your own trial is often the best way to avoid adding more ammunition to the prosecution's fire; however, there might be situations in which a lawyer would want a defendant to take the stand during his or her trial.
Before you decide whether or not to testify at your criminal trial, make sure you thoroughly discuss this question with your attorney. If your attorney believes that it would not help your case, you should take his or her advice. If you have not yet hired an attorney, look for one today that specializes in criminal defense.