Often times in criminal trials, defendants want to testify on their own behalf. However, there are many reasons why testifying on your own behalf is a bad idea. In the right case, your testimony may be critical to your defense. However, more often, your testimony could actually damage your case.
When You are Not Guilty of the Charges
Many people feel particularly compelled to testify when they are actually not guilty of the charges so they can tell their “side of the story.” Unfortunately, most of the time, when people are not guilty, they have no actual direct knowledge of the criminal case. They really can't say anything more than, “I didn't do this.” And while it is perfectly normal to want to shout this from the rooftops, in reality, this doesn't add anything to the defense. They have already pled not guilty, which is why a trial is taking place.
In addition to the fact that they cannot provide additional information beyond “I didn't do this,” when defendants testify, they open themselves up to cross examination by the government. Many people think having the truth on their side will protect them from vigorous cross examination. It won't.
Prosecutors are professionals who have extensive experience cross examining witnesses. Most defendants are not professional witnesses. Withstanding a blistering cross examination is a challenge, not because someone has something to hide, but rather because with the fast pace and rapid fire questioning, it is easy to get confused. Once confused, a person may testify inconsistently with prior testimony or prior statements. With nothing to say besides, “I didn't do it.” In the end, there is little benefit to testifying and a lot of risk of doing it.
When You Have Certain Defenses
If, on the other hand, a person's defense is, “I did it, but I had a really good reason,” then testifying might be a good idea, even though the risks associated with cross examination still exist. For example, self-defense justifies a certain amount of force if one reasonably believes the force is necessary to defend against an assault. Since it is rare that a person will announce his or her beliefs out loud and in front of witnesses, a defendant may have no choice but to testify to his or her belief the force was necessary to stop force being perpetrated upon him or her. In cases where only the defendant can provide information to the jury, testifying may be the only choice.
If You Face Criminal Charges...
If you face criminal charges, don't go it alone. Contact the Law Offices of Kensley R. Barrett, Esq. online or at 401–380–6724. Kensley Barrett has the experience you need to defend you against criminal charges.