Being arrested and charged with a crime is a daunting experience. The law can be confusing for many unfamiliar with it, and its many quirks are a frustration for those trying their best to be exonerated of a crime. Trial law, in particular, can be extremely complicated. Fortunately, all of those accused of a crime have rights in the US, and one of the most important is the right to legal representation. While your criminal defense attorney will have a far greater understanding of what is to happen at your trial, some decisions and actions can only be made by you. One of the most important decisions involves whether or not to testify at your trial on your own behalf. Read on to learn more.
The Fifth Amendment
Our forefathers recognized and strove to correct many unfair legal issues when they formed the Bill of Rights and our Constitution. The Fifth Amendment contains a melting pot of rights for citizens, and one of those is the right to choose their own fate when it comes time to testify in court.
Should You Testify?
Most people wrongly assume that innocent people are eager to take the stand and tell their side of the story. In many cases, however, this is not only unnecessary but could also harm the defendant more than helps them. If a defendant is to take the stand, it often comes at the end of the trial. At this time, much evidence and testimony have already been presented to the jury – leaving very little for the defendant to testify about. Not one person other than the defendant has the choice of taking the stand. It's unfortunate that defendants who abstain from testifying on their own behalf are viewed as less innocent by that very fact. Often, however, the jury wants and needs to hear the facts from the person who stands accused to render a verdict.
When You Should Not Testify
If you know you want to testify, be sure you understand the potential repercussions by discussing the matter at length with your attorney. Not everyone does well in the spotlight, particularly a spotlight that passes judgment. With your first words on the stand, you are giving up those important Fifth Amendment rights not to testify. Once done, you must withstand any and all questioning by the state. If you are uncomfortable speaking in public, you may end up coming across as guilty. The way you appear, from your hairstyle to the way you gesture with your hands, are under intense scrutiny while on the stand.
Speak to a law office like Hart Law Group to learn more about this issue and make this decision based on their opinion.