Testifying at your own criminal trial

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There is no denying that testifying in a court of law can be intimidating, whatever the reason you are called to the stand. If you are facing criminal charges in Florida, the process can be all the more nerve-wracking, as your testimony may have a direct impact on the final verdict. That’s why, before your case goes to trial, you and your Miami criminal defense attorney must determine if you are fit to testify before a jury.

By law, you are not required to testify in your defense – a right granted by the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which protects you from self-incrimination. However, particularly if you are innocent of the crime you are accused of, it may frustrate you to sit on the sidelines while your case is disputed in court.

According to the online legal resource Nolo, the following factors may affect whether you should exercise your Constitutional rights or take the stand in your defense:

  • Your criminal history – If you have been charged with a criminal act in the past, the opposition may seek to undermine your credibility by questioning you on this matter before the court.
  • Your demeanor – Though the jury is charged to evaluate your case based on the facts presented in court, the way you carry yourself on the stand may influence how they perceive you, and could even be reflected in your verdict
  • Your overall testimony – If the jury questions the accuracy of your testimony, or doesn’t believe that you have fully established your innocence, they may lose sight of the fact that the burden of proof in a criminal trial actually falls on the prosecution rather than the defense.

If you do choose not to testify in your criminal trial, the judge will instruct the jury not to see this as an indication of guilt.

For more information about the criminal process, contact Miami criminal defense attorney Scott A. Ferris, Esq.