In popular television shows, defense lawyers constantly put defendants on the stand to tell “their side of the story.” Often, the hero lawyer’s brilliant handling of the defendant’s testimony creates the triumphant, pivotal moment that sets the innocent victim on the path to freedom.
In reality, it is rarely a good idea to testify in your criminal case, and few reputable defense attorneys will want to put you on the stand.
Defendant Testimony is Unnecessary
In a criminal case, the burden of proof rests with the prosecution. You are innocent until proven guilty.
In other words, you don’t have to tell your side of the story.
The District Attorney’s office has to prove their theory of the crime.
This is a massive advantage and one you should not give away lightly. As your defense attorneys, we often work by chipping away at the evidence the DA uses to present their case, undermining it, and showing why their suppositions cannot be accurate. You do not have to get up on the stand for us to do that.
Defendant Testimony is Risky
Getting up on the stand waives your right to silence. As we’ve covered in other blog posts, your right to silence is one of the most effective protections you have against criminal prosecution.
You also open yourself up to cross-examination, which is extremely dangerous. You’re allowing the prosecution to poke holes in your story and ask questions you might not want to be asked.
While you could still “plead the Fifth” in response to some questions, you create trouble every time you do. You’d essentially be telling the jury, repeatedly: “There’s something incriminating here.” It would be like getting up on the stand and shouting that you’re guilty.
You’ll also be inviting the jury to decide whether they like you, which is not helpful. You’ll try to make a good impression while you’re under stress, which is almost always impossible. If you come across as a liar, the jury may ignore every other problem with the evidence in favor of convicting you. Remember, most people already believe the police go on a grand quest for truth and almost always arrest the right person.
There Are Always Exceptions
Every criminal case is different. There are, at times, specific cases where the potential rewards might outweigh the risks.
Trust your criminal defense attorney to know when those exceptions apply to your case. Don’t insist on testifying. Let your lawyer suggest it, and then ask your lawyer to give you the rigorous preparation you’d need to be successful.
Get Help Today
Working with an experienced private criminal defense attorney is the surest way to bring your case to its best potential outcome.
If you’re in trouble, don’t delay. Contact us to get help today.
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