It is important that you know your rights and responsibilities when facing a criminal charge. You have the right to remain silent. You cannot be compelled to incriminate or testify against yourself.
It is human nature, however, to want to take the stand to explain your innocence if you are accused of a crime. However, it is important that carefully weigh your options before testifying in your own defense.
Here are two things you need to consider before testifying in your defense.
Impression on the jury
Sometimes, taking the stand in your own trial may be counter-productive. Remember, the jury will be closely scrutinizing your behavior on the stand in search of potential signs of guilt or indications that you could be lying. Showing these behaviors during cross-examination, either by your defense team or the prosecutor can hurt your case:
- Appearing nervous may imply that you are hiding some truth
- Appearing emotional can send the message that you are unstable
You simply can never tell how a jury will interpret your behavior on the stand.
The risk of self-incrimination during cross-examination
You may practice the questions that your legal representative will ask while on the stand. However, cross-examination is usually the most sensitive phase of any criminal trial.
Prosecutors will seize the opportunity and ask you tough questions with the goal of discrediting your previous testimony or getting you to unknowingly incriminate yourself. Remember, the prosecution’s goal is to wear you down with carefully crafted questions until:
- You say something that strengthens their case, or
- You collapse under the weight of interrogation and lose your composure
Put bluntly, there is a lot at stake when you are accused of committing a crime. Before taking the stand in your own defense, it is important that you weigh the potential benefits and risks of your action.