Should you testify in your own defense?

Your future is on the line when you’ve been charged with criminal wrongdoing. To defend yourself as aggressively as possible, assertiveness is crucial. This drives many to consider testifying in their own defense. Their hope is that doing so will give them an opportunity to explain away suspicions, discredit harmful evidence, and charm a jury into acquitting them. But real-life trials don’t always play out as intended, and testifying in your own defense can be extremely risky.

In this post we want to take a closer look at the dangers of testifying in your criminal case.

The risks of testifying in your defense

There are several risks associated with testifying in your defense. Although you might think that you’re fully in control when you’re testifying, that may not be the case. Here’s why:

  • You’ll be subject to cross-examination: While you can prepare your own direct testimony with your defense attorney prior to trial, the prosecutor is going to have the ability to cross-examine you. Although you might be able to anticipate some of the questions that they’ll ask you, they might take you by surprise. And if you’re not equipped with strong, compelling answers, then you might end up looking bad in front of the jury or get caught in a lie about a key element of the case.
  • Your character may become an issue: Although you want the jury to take you at your word when you testify, the prosecution is going to deploy tactics to try to diminish the value of your testimony and the weight that the jury assigns to it. One way they might be able to achieve this is by attacking your character. Prosecutors might highlight unsavory acts in which you’ve engaged, or they might point out some of your prior criminal history. These character attacks can probably be avoided, though, if you forego testifying in your case.
  • You might not be viewed favorably by the jury: If you testify, the jury is going to scrutinize every aspect of your demeanor and the words you speak. Even your tone of voice could end up being off-putting to them, regardless of what you actually say. Therefore, despite your best efforts, you may end up causing harm to the credibility of your theory of the case.
  • You might not have as much to offer as you think: Sure, testifying in your own defense gives you the ability to confront the allegations head-on, but you might not be able to provide that much valuable information. After all, there are probably other witnesses and documentation that you can rely upon to prove your case. In those instances, taking the risk of testifying in your case probably isn’t worth it.

Craft the best criminal defense possible under your set of circumstances

With your freedom and your future on the line, you can’t afford to present anything less than the strongest criminal defense possible under the circumstances. Therefore, the sooner you start gathering evidence and developing your legal strategy, the better.

Don’t be daunted by the process to the point that you’re too fearful to act. If you need a helping hand in creating an effective criminal defense, then be sure to seek out the support that you need, which may be secured from an attorney, family members, friends and even mental health professionals.

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