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Should you testify in your criminal case?

On Behalf of | Mar 7, 2024 | Criminal Defense

When you’re accused of criminal wrongdoing, you might be tempted to talk to the police to try to clear up the matter and dispel any suspicions lingering over you. The same holds true when you’re formally charged, except at that point it’s too late to talk to the police, which is why you might feel compelled to testify in your own defense at trial. But is testifying in your criminal case a good idea?

It depends on the facts of your case and the effectiveness of your testimony. But it’s not a decision that you should make lightly and without consulting with your attorney. Let’s look at some of the risks of taking the stand in your criminal case.

Reasons not to testify in your criminal case

Testifying in your criminal case can be incredibly risky. Here’s why:

  • Impeachment: The prosecution is going to have a lot of tools available that it can use to draw your credibility and reliability into question. For example, if they can find one inconsistent statement, even if it’s seemingly minor, then they can extrapolate it in an attempt to show that you’re untrustworthy and a liar. You can reduce or even eliminate that risk, though, if you don’t take the stand in your case.
  • Your demeanor: It’s nerve-wracking to take the stand in your own defense. After all, your future and your freedom are on the line. And, even if you don’t expect it, your nerves can get the best of you. As a result, you might unintentionally come across as flippant or arrogant, or you might just give the impression to the jury that you’re guilty.
  • The truth: When you testify, you’re under a legal obligation to tell the truth. If the truth is harmful to your defense, then why risk testifying about something that’s against your interests?
  • Your criminal record: Although some of your background can be blocked as being too prejudicial, there’s a chance that the prosecution can use it to try to impeach you. So, anticipate that your history is going to come up in some fashion.

Any of these issues could convince jurors of your guilt, thereby putting you at risk of being hit with severe penalties. So, think twice before agreeing to take the stand in your case.

Should you ever take the stand?

There may be instances where it’s appropriate for you to testify in your case. If your testimony is your best shot at beating the prosecution because the evidence is stacked against you, then taking the stand might be your only move. But it also might be okay for you to testify if you have a clean background, you know how to invoke your Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, and you perform well under stress. It’s extremely risky, though, which is why you need a strong understanding of the positioning of your case and what you can prove through other witnesses and physical evidence before making a decision.

Craft the persuasive criminal defense strategy best aimed at protecting your interests

There’s a lot that goes into building a strong criminal defense. You need to analyze the physical evidence in play, depose the prosecution’s witnesses, use the rules of evidence to your advantage, and know when to push the prosecution for resolution. And that’s just to name a few of the issues that you’ll have to address.

That’s a lot to think about and navigate, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the legal process. Therefore, you might want to think about how best to develop your criminal defense before you get too far along in your case. It’s never too early to start thinking about how to fight back against the prosecution.