Deciding If You Should Testify or Not in Your Criminal Trial

criminal defense, testify, Illinois criminal defense attorneyOne of the most important and difficult decisions to make in many criminal trials is whether or not the defendant should testify. There are many strategic and ethical factors that go into this decision. Before you and your lawyer decide what is best for you case, you need to understand what goes into making the choice.

Your Constitutional Rights

Under the United States Constitution, you have a right to testify on your own behalf in a criminal trial. Neither a judge nor the prosecutor can prevent you from testifying.

You also have a constitutional right not to testify in a criminal trial. This is different than almost any other kind of case. In a civil trial you can be ordered to testify. But, when you are a criminal defendant no one can order you to testify.

There is also an added layer of protection. A judge or a jury cannot make any assumptions about what it means that you did not testify. They cannot assume that means you are guilty. Otherwise, it would impact your right not to testify.

Strategic Considerations

You do not have the right to lie on the stand when you testify. If your lawyer believes that you are going to perjure yourself or otherwise intentionally mislead the court, that lawyer has an ethical obligation not to call you to testify or to resign from representing you.

There are several other reasons why it may not be in your best interest to testify. You may not be a good witness. Some people do not present themselves well up on the stand. This can leave the jury with a bad impression and harm your case. You may be telling the truth, but still not be believable.

Sometimes a lawyer may get a sense that the jury is biased in some crucial way. Your testifying could play into that bias and harm your case.

There are also several reasons why it may be a good idea to testify. Juries often like to hear from both sides. Even though they are not allowed to base their verdict on the fact of whether or not you testified, it is human nature to wonder if someone who doesn’t testify is hiding something. In many cases you are your own best witness,

When it comes to testifying in a criminal case, you and your lawyer must carefully weigh all the possibilities.

If you have been accused or charged with a crime, you need to speak with a skilled and knowledgeable Arlington Heights criminal defense attorney right away. Do not talk to anyone else about your case until you have consulted with an attorney. Call 847-253-3100 today to schedule a consultation. You deserve a lawyer who will stand up for your rights.

Sources:

http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs3.asp?ChapterID=54&ActID=1966

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