Should I Testify In My Own Criminal Case?

Posted on: 4 May 2016

Presenting the right case in your criminal defense can be tricky. One thing that often comes up is whether you should testify on your own behalf during the trial. While there is no clear cut answer, there are several things to think about before making this decision. 

Potential Benefits of Testifying on Your Behalf

There can be some benefits to getting up in front of the jury. If you are able to give a calm and reasonable explanation of what happened, this can help to sway the jury to thinking that you are a reasonable person. The jury is made up of ordinary human beings, and if they can identify with you and develop a liking for you as a person, this will help them to interpret the case in your favor. While jury are not supposed to interpret your silence during the case as an indicator of guilt, it simply helps the jury to understand your side better if you speak for yourself. 

This can be especially important if there are few witnesses who can give details to support your case. If your prosecutor has many witnesses and people who come to the stand, you may choose to balance it out by presenting the details from your own perspective. 

Potential Downfall of Testifying

However, testifying in front of the jury doesn't always play in your favor. There are several ways that the testimony can go wrong. If you get angry with the prosecutor's questions, your temper may make you look more guilty in the eyes of the jury. Similarly, if you stammer and don't seem to present a coherent story, it could look as if you aren't telling the truth. Work with your criminal lawyer and practice standing on trial to see how you deal with the pressure, and if it's wise to put yourself up to the test. 

How to Decide

The decision you make should involve careful consideration between you and a skilled criminal defense attorney. Your criminal lawyer should have enough experience to make a good judgement call about whether you should go up to the witness stand. This may depend on a few things, including how overwhelming the evidence is against you. Your lawyer will also help you to make an honest decision about how you'll be perceived in the eyes of a jury. With careful consideration, you can make a good decision about whether to go up on the witness stand. 

For more information, contact a lawyer like Jeffrey D. Larson, Attorney at Law