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Why it might be a bad idea to testify in your own defense

Many lawyers advise clients not to testify in their own defense, but sometimes, the clients go ahead and do it anyway. Frequently, this testimony turns out to be a mistake.

Lawyers know the criminal justice system well. If they advise you to not testify but you want to no matter what, it is important to consider the reasons why testifying might hurt your case.

Anything could be a sign of guilt

If you are emotional on the stand, the jury might see you as a good actor or as overly dramatic. If you are calm and composed, jurors might perceive you as a cold-blooded reptile. Have difficulty making eye contact? Maybe you are guilty! There really is no “right” way to be on the stand, and lawyers might believe that the judge or jurors in your case would find your behavior problematic.

Staying silent will not hurt you

Many defendants think that jurors will not believe their case if they do not testify. In reality, jurors do not tend to hold a defendant’s silence against the person. Juries are usually told multiple times about the defendant’s right to not testify, and they are able to logically understand why someone did not take the stand.

People have experience with liars

The judge or jurors in your case likely have experience with at least one liar. Perhaps this person was slick and smooth with the lies. Judges and jurors know that people lie. It is often best to just force the prosecutors to make their case.

Prosecutors will try to trip you up

Leading questions or unfair questions from a prosecutor may be what spells doom in your case. If you never get on the stand, they never ask you risky questions about that social media post.

If you are facing criminal charges, it is almost always a good idea to have a lawyer in your corner. Consult with this person about the pros and cons of testifying in your own defense.