Exercising The Right To Testify At Trial
An accused’s right to testify in his defense is one of the most important rights an accused has in a criminal trial. How a person charged with a crime chooses to exercise this right can make a big difference in the outcome of the person’s trial. In some cases, testifying can be the right decision, but in others, testifying can reveal negative information that may lead to conviction.
When making the decision to testify, it is always important to seek the advice of the criminal defense attorney handling your case. There are considerations, such as criminal history, that should be considered as part of the deliberation on whether to testify. A person’s felony convictions can be used against them if they choose to testify. In a jury trial, the defense can usually keep out a person’s criminal background because introduction of the criminal history would prejudice the jury against the accused. However, when the accused takes the stand to testify, his felony convictions can be used to impeach his testimony.
Impeachment is a way by which the validity of a witness’s testimony can be challenged. Impeachment using felony convictions does this by telling the jury that the accused should not be trusted because he has a prior felony conviction. It is always dangerous to put this kind of information before a jury because there is the risk that the jury may use the information to conclude that the accused is a bad person who is worthy of conviction despite what the evidence shows. Adjudications from juvenile proceedings are not generally admissible for impeachment.
It is also important to consider that if an accused testifies at one trial, that testimony can be used in a retrial, if one is needed. The testimony can be used in a subsequent retrial even if the accused decides not to testify at the retrial. This can deal a serious blow to the defense if the testimony at the previous trial is contrary to a new defense theory at the retrial.
The prosecution has the burden of proof in a criminal case. This means that the person accused of a crime bears no burden to introduce any evidence, or to testify in his defense. While some people may feel that if they do not tell the jury their side of the story they risk conviction, there is just as much risk in testifying in some situations. This is why an accused person should seek the advice of his experienced criminal attorney in order to make the best decision on whether to testify or not.
Contact an Experienced Defense Attorney
No matter how serious the offense you are charged with, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney representing you. While you have to make some serious decisions concerning your case, having an experienced criminal defense attorney to advise you can help you make the right decision for your defense. Contact the experienced criminal defense attorney at Scott Berry Law for a free consultation today.