3 Reasons Your Attorney May Tell You Not To Take The Stand At Your Criminal Trial

Posted on: 15 December 2015

If you are preparing for an upcoming criminal trial and know you are innocent, you may want to take the stand in your own defense. While your lawyer may suggest not to do this, the decision is still up to you. Before you make the decision to testify at your own trial, it is important for you to understand why lawyers often recommend against this. Here are three reasons you may want to change your mind about this.

You Have The Legal Right Not To

The Fifth Amendment of the Constitution gives you the legal right not to testify. This is designed to prevent people from being forced into incriminating themselves. Because of this, you do not have to get on the stand and testify at your own trial, or at any trial, if the information you have to offer would incriminate yourself.

While you may know you are innocent, your own testimony can still be derogatory to your case. This is why your lawyer may tell you that he or she recommends not testifying at your trial.

Cross Examination Can Be Harsh

The second thing to consider is the way cross examination works. When you testify, it will not only involve your own lawyer asking you questions, but it will also involve cross examination. Cross examination occurs when the opposing legal party has the opportunity to ask you questions while you are on the stand.

When this occurs, you will be under oath, which means you are required to tell the truth. The prosecutor that is cross examining you may begin asking you questions that seem irrelevant to the case, but you might be required to answer these. The goal of this is to make you look bad. Cross examination is not only used to get you to incriminate yourself, but it is also to help persuade the jury that you are not credible or trustworthy.

This can often involve the prosecutor bringing up things from your past. If you are on trial for burglary and have a past history of this, the court might automatically feel that you are probably guilty for this new charge. Going through the cross-examination process can be grueling, and you may wish you had followed your lawyer's advice once you are on the stand answering questions.

If the jurors begin to form negative opinions about you because of the questions the prosecutor asks, you may have a bigger chance of losing your case.

The Prosecutor Has The Burden Of Proof

It can be very difficult to convince someone you are innocent, but you should know that this is not really the goal of a criminal trial. You and your attorney are not necessarily there to prove you are innocent. You are both there to prove that there is reasonable doubt that you committed the crime, and this is where the principle of burden of proof becomes important.

Burden of proof is something that refers to the prosecutor proving beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty. This means the prosecutor must present enough evidence and witnesses to convince the court that you committed this crime. Without the burden of proof, the prosecutor will have a very difficult time winning.

Your lawyer will try to instill doubt in the minds of those in the courtroom. If your lawyer is successful, the court will be forced to drop your charges.

Criminal trials are difficult and can be time-consuming, and you will want the best results from your case. This is why you will need a criminal lawyer representing you through this process, and you can learn more by calling a criminal lawyer like Begley Carlin & Mandio LLP in your area.