Should You Testify?

Clearwater Criminal Trial Lawyers Representing the Accused

One of the primary rights of any criminal defendant is that they have the right to enter a plea of not guilty and force the State to prove any charges against them beyond and to the exclusion of every reasonable doubt. No defendant can ever be compelled to testify against him or herself or to present evidence of his or her own guilt. No defendant is even required to present evidence of innocence. The State bears the burden alone to prove guilt in any and every criminal case. The Clearwater criminal trial lawyers at Hanlon law believe in these rights and will fight to protect yours.

Because no defendant can be forced to present evidence for or against himself, a tricky question is often raised in criminal cases: should you testify. There are many factors to consider when making this important decision and you should consult with an experienced attorney any time you consider testifying in your own defense. The right to remain silent and not testify is a right that cannot be taken from you. Similarly, the right TO testify in your own defense cannot be stripped from you either. While your attorney can and will advise you on what the best decision is, that decision is yours and yours alone.

Factors to Consider

The decision to testify or to remain silent in your case is not one to be taken lightly. There are many factors to consider when trying to make such a decision. The most important thing to consider is the strength of the State’s case against you. The prosecution has the burden to prove you guilty, and in many cases it is in your best interest to hold them to that burden and not give them any help. Many people think that juries want to hear from defendants and will convict them if they do not give their “side” of the story. While that can be true in some circumstances, juries are sworn to follow the law and a skilled Clearwater criminal trial lawyer can do everything possible to ensure that they hold the state to their burden.

If the State has a weak case against you with questionable evidence, it may be in your best interest to remain silent and not testify. Your lawyer can point out the holes in the state’s case and show there is reasonable doubt without using your testimony. If the state’s case is strong, and some evidence suggesting your guilt is difficult to explain, then it may be helpful for you to testify in order to clear up questions for the jury. You should always discuss your testimony with your lawyer before making this kind of decision.

You should also consider whether you have made any statements to the police before your testimony. While you should never speak to police without a lawyer, officers are specially trained to coerce people into making statements against their own interest. On one hand, your testimony can expose how coercive the investigators in your case were and call into question the truthfulness of the officers or other witnesses. On the other hand, if you had previously made a statement inconsistent with your testimony, the prosecutor can use your prior statements to suggest that you are lying.

You should also consider your own demeanor when determining whether or not to testify. If you choose to take the stand, you will be subject to cross examination by a prosecutor. Prosecutors are trained to get under your skin. If you are easily angered or have fear of public speaking, you may want to avoid testifying. An experienced Clearwater criminal trial lawyer will prepare you for any testimony you might give and should prepare you for cross examination as well.

Hire a Dedicated Criminal Trial Lawyer Today

The lawyers at Hanlon Law have the trial experience necessary to help you make the best decision for your case. The decision to testify or remain silent can be one of the most critical decisions you make in your case, and you should make sure you retain the lawyers with the best track record to advise you. Call us today at (727) -897-5413.