Every criminal case is unique, which is why the guidance of an attorney may prove invaluable. This is especially true if you are considering testifying in your own case. A lawyer can help you avoid making critical mistakes, such as incriminating yourself during the testimony.
Depending on the circumstances surrounding your case, it may be beneficial to testify in court; however, the opposite is also true, and you could seriously compromise your defense if you take to the witness stand. A criminal attorney in White Plains can advise you on whether testifying will help or harm your case. Call the Law Offices of Darren DeUrso today at 914-772-8614 to learn more, and read on to learn about the advantages and disadvantages of testifying in court:
The Advantages of Testifying
The law does not permit jurors to interpret cases freely. In fact, jurors receive strict instructions about applicable laws pertaining to your case. According to the New York State Unified Court System, jurors have to adhere to Criminal Jury Instructions, or CJI.
Among these general instructions, jurors may not interpret a defendant’s silence as an indication of guilt. While defendants do not have to testify in their own cases, most jurors are curious about the accused’s own version of events, and this may work in your favor. Delivering an articulate, comprehensive account could possibly sway the jury’s opinion about your side of the story.
In cases without witnesses, supporting evidence or sources for additional information, taking the witness stand may be crucial. Police reports frequently omit important details or fail to explain the context surrounding the accused’s actions, such as committing assault in self-defense. In many cases, the accused is the only person who can explain exactly what occurred and provide the court with clarity.
The Disadvantages of Testifying
If circumstances permit, testifying on your own account has the potential to work in your favor, but there are also drawbacks that you need to consider. As mentioned above, most juries desire the accused’s own account of events. It makes them feel empathy toward you, and as a result, they may listen more carefully to your defense; however, this tactic is unpredictable.
If you appear nervous, edgy, confused or tense, the jury may think you are fabricating your story, even if you are completely honest in court. Unfortunately, the pressurized atmosphere in most criminal trials makes people anxious, especially when facing the possibility of a prison sentence.
Additionally, grueling cross-examination can increase the defendant’s anxiety more, particularly in cases that involve serious felonies like sexual assault or homicide. Prosecutors receive extensive training in cross-examination techniques, and they know how to extract information from witnesses. Such relentless questioning can overwhelm most defendants, regardless of how well they prepared.
You will not receive advanced warning of the prosecutor’s questions, which may catch you off-guard and prove detrimental to your case. Furthermore, if you tell lies under oath, you are committing perjury, which is a serious crime in New York.
Deciding whether to testify at your trial is a complicated matter, and you could benefit from the experience and knowledge of a professional criminal lawyer. To understand the implications of this decision and choose the right course of action, call the Law Offices of Darren DeUrso today at 914-772-8614.