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Should you testify in your criminal trial?

On Behalf of | Nov 22, 2022 | Criminal Defense |

If you are indicted and charged with a crime, you need to figure out how to defend yourself. One of the options you can consider testifying in your own trial. But, is this the best choice?

You are not required to testify in your own criminal trial. In fact, the Fifth Amendment protects you from incriminating yourself. This means that the prosecution cannot compel you to testify during your trial. However, subject to the facts of your case, you may take the stand. 

What to expect when you take the witness stand

During a criminal trial, both the prosecution and the defense have the right to call their witnesses. Before taking the stand, you will be required to swear to speak the truth. 

Then, your legal counsel will start by asking direct questions. These questions are usually prepared in advance and are meant to help you present your side of the story and support your case. 

Once your defense counsel is through with their questions, the prosecution too will step forward to cross-examine you. And this can be the deal breaker for your case. 

Cross-examination and redirects

During the cross-examination, the prosecution may twist the questions you were asked by your defense counsel. They might also bring up issues that can hurt your credibility. For instance, if you’ve had previous problems with the law, the prosecution might bring this up. 

Still, every prosecutor has their own style of questioning. Some may be theatrical. They may raise their voice with the goal of mounting pressure so you can make a mistake. 

The decision to testify is entirely up to you

Every criminal case is unique. If you have the confidence to take the stand, withstand the prosecution’s pressure and prove to the court that you are innocent, testifying in your criminal trial might be a good idea. 

However, if you are timid, then taking the stand might end up doing more harm than good. That’s why it is important that you explore and understand your legal options before deciding whether you should testify in your criminal trial or not.