Testifying at Trial
As criminal defense lawyers, one of the most common complaints that we receive from new clients following their arrest is that the police “didn’t even want my side of the story.” The desire to tell one’s side of what happened is a natural one, but it can also be a dangerous desire. Too often before retaining a lawyer, our clients speak to the police and make statements regarding their cases that are actually more harmful than helpful. If you speak to a lawyer during the investigatory phase of your case, that lawyer will more than likely tell you to keep your mouth shut and assert your fifth amendment right to remain silent.
Now, just because you should not speak to the police during the investigation of your case, that does not mean that you should necessarily remain silent throughout the pendency of your case. As a criminal defendant, there are certain things that you and you alone must decide. First, a criminal defendant has an absolute right to choose his or her attorney or to represent himself or herself. Next, a criminal defendant has the right to choose whether to proceed to trial or to plead guilty and accept a negotiated resolution or a sentence by a judge. And finally, every criminal defendant has the right to choose to testify in his or her defense or to remain silent. In order to make the best decisions for your case, it is critical that you retain a skilled Sarasota criminal defense lawyer for your case.Should You Testify In Your Own Defense
The Fifth Amendment to the United States constitution lays out several rights. Most importantly, it states that no person “shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” The Fifth Amendment right to remain silent is one of the most crucial rights available to be asserted by criminal defendants. One of the defining features of the American criminal justice system is the requirement that the State prove their case against the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt without the help of the defendant himself.
Because the right to remain silent exists, it is completely up to the defendant in a criminal case to decide whether he or she will provide testimony in their defense. Consulting with an experienced Sarasota criminal defense lawyer can make this decision more clear. A skilled lawyer can determine if yours is a case where a defendant’s testimony might help. For example, in a burglary case with little evidence connecting the accused to the crime, it may be more strategically sound to remain silent and force the State to prove their case while poking holes in their evidence. Conversely, in a violent crime prosecution where the defendant claims self defense, it may be critical for the defendant to testify in order to establish a case of self defense.
While your lawyer has wide leeway to make various strategic decisions in your case, there are some decisions that only the defendant can make. You may have a strong conviction and desire to testify in your own defense, but your lawyer may advise you against providing your own testimony. While you should always take your attorney’s counsel seriously, you must also remember that the choice to testify or to remain silent is yours and yours alone. And if your choice is to testify in your own defense, your lawyer cannot prevent you from doing so.Speak To Our Lawyers Today
The attorneys at Hanlon Law have years of experience defending all manner of criminal cases. Our extensive trial experience helps us to advise you about the best strategies for your case. If you are not sure how you should proceed with your case, call us today for a consultation at 941.462.1789.