Put Prosecution Experience On Your Side

Is it a good idea to testify in your own criminal defense?

On Behalf of | Jun 3, 2024 | Criminal Defense

The prosecution is going to be armed with evidence that they think is sufficient to obtain a conviction. In response, you might feel an urge to try to explain away the evidence and any lingering suspicions about your guilt. While that might encourage you to speak to the police before you’ve even been charged with an offense, which we discourage, it might also cause you to consider testifying in your own defense at trial. But is that a wise move?

The risks of testifying in your own defense in your criminal trial

Some people who have been accused of criminal wrongdoing think that they can persuade a jury of their innocence if they can just get the opportunity to tell their side of the story in their own words. But testifying in your own defense can be extraordinarily risky. Here’s why:

  • Credibility issues: When you testify, you want the jury to believe everything you say. But there are oftentimes issues that can be brought to light to devastate a witness’s credibility and the reliability of their testimony. This can include a criminal history, but it can also be something as simple as having made a prior inconsistent statement pertaining to something that seems relatively minor. Remember, too, that the prosecution is going to have the opportunity to cross-examine you to try to draw these credibility issues out. So, if your credibility might be an issue, then you’re probably better off not testifying in your case.
  • Lack of value: If you’re going to testify in your case, then your testimony needs to bring something to the table. If it’s merely a recitation of evidence that you can admit through other witnesses, then you’re just putting yourself and your criminal defense at an unnecessary risk. So, carefully analyze how your testimony is going to stack up to other evidence you intend to offer.
  • Your composure: Everything matters in court. Your appearance, the way you talk, and what you say can each have an impact on how your testimony is received. If you easily get nervous, and that nervousness is reflected in a shaky voice, for example, then you may not want to risk having jurors interpret that nervousness as a sign of guilt. The same holds true if you’re prone to outbursts or if you come across as flippant. These issues may be hard to recognize, too, given that jurors may view you differently than you view yourself.

Remember, the prosecution can’t make you testify in your criminal case. So, you should only testify if there are very good reasons for doing so. Otherwise, the risks typically outweigh the benefits. It may be tempting to tell the story in your own words, but doing so on the stand can give the prosecution an opening to convince the jury you are guilty. Trust your attorney to use other witnesses and physical evidence to paint the picture you want the jury to see.

Develop the strong criminal defense you need

There’s a lot that goes into an effective criminal defense. You don’t want to cut corners in crafting your legal strategy, otherwise you could be taken by surprise at trial and wind up convicted on evidence that you otherwise could’ve challenged.

Before heading into your case, thoroughly scrutinize the evidence, educate yourself on the law, and figure out the best way to attack the prosecution’s theory of the case. Only then will you be ready to make the criminal defense decisions that are right for you.