As a criminal defendant, you have the right to testify in your trial and explain your side of the story. However, contrary to what some people believe, defendants are not required to testify in their own criminal trials. In fact, a defendant can choose to remain silent throughout their entire trial, letting the evidence and witness testimony speak for themselves. Many defendants are eager to take the stand and talk about their version of events, but this is not always the smartest choice. Whether or not you should testify in a criminal case in Philadelphia will depend on your case and the strategy developed by your attorney.
Whether you should testify in a criminal trial will vary from case to case. Sometimes, a defendant can help their case by testifying. Other times, a defendant could do more harm than good by testifying in their own criminal trial. The nature of your charges and the strength of the evidence against you will play a role in your decision to testify or not. Not only are defendants faced with this difficult choice, but witnesses also face certain risks when agreeing to testify. It is best to talk about your case with an attorney before deciding to testify.
If you are a defendant or witness in a criminal trial, your testimony may be important. However, providing testimony is not without risks. Our Montgomery County criminal defense lawyers can help you weigh the pros and cons of testifying. Set up a free legal consultation with The Law Offices of Lloyd Long to get help today.
When is Testifying in a Criminal Case in Philadelphia a Good Idea?
As a defendant, testifying in your criminal trial is not always a bad idea. Many defendants can provide unique insight into their story, allowing juries to see them as complex individuals rather than one-dimensional villains. Every case is different, and you should definitely talk to your lawyer before making a final decision, but a defendant’s testimony might be useful in the following circumstances.
Your testimony could be useful when there is little other supporting evidence on your side. Prosecutors approach cases with as much evidence they can find. This can include physical evidence, expert testimony, eyewitness testimony, and scientific evidence like DNA and fingerprints. Ideally, you and your attorney should undermine the prosecutor’s case with evidence of your own that demonstrates your innocence. Unfortunately, this kind of evidence can be hard to find or may not exist in every case. Your testimony might be all you have to fight your charges.
You should also only consider testifying if you are an unimpeachable witness. To impeach a witness means to undermine them and make them look bad in front of a jury. This could mean disproving their testimony or somehow showing they are dishonest, and their testimony should not be believed. Your testimony could be helpful to your case, but only if you have a reputation for trustworthiness and your story is ironclad. If you think a prosecutor could poke holes in your testimony, it might be best to stay quiet.
You could also testify if the information you have is unavailable from anyone else. Getting on the stand is a gamble because if things go wrong, you could lose the trust and faith of the jury. You might have useful information to tell, but if another witness has the same information, it can be a good idea to let them tell it instead. Talk to your lawyer to determine if your information is unique or can be presented in another way.
For help with your trial and testimony, call our Delaware County criminal defense lawyers right away.
A Defendant’s Right to Not Testify in their Own Criminal Case in Philadelphia
Even though it might be tempting to take the stand and testify, you have a right to remain silent throughout your entire trial. In fact, defendants are not required to present any testimony or evidence at all. The burden of proof in a criminal case lies with the prosecution. In some cases, when prosecutors clearly cannot meet their burden, a defense attorney may present little to no evidence because it is simply not necessary.
Your right to not testify should be carefully considered. When taking the stand to testify, you are opening yourself up to cross-examination by the prosecution. Cross-examination is when the prosecutor gets to ask you questions while you are on the stand. Their questions will be designed to trip you up, reveal flaws in your evidence, or disprove your testimony. It can be hard to navigate cross-examination because you can never be too sure what kind of questions will be asked. By refusing to testify, you avoid the potential damage from being cross-examined.
Possibility of Self-Incrimination by Testifying in a Philadelphia Criminal Case
Both witnesses and defendants run the risk of self-incrimination while testifying in a criminal trial. This may seem strange as most people are aware of a person’s right to be protected from self-incrimination. This right is the basis of a defendant’s right to refuse to take the stand. However, sometimes witnesses and defendants do not realize they are incriminating themselves on the stand and end up revealing too much information.
Self-incrimination typically involves revealing information that incriminates you as part of some criminal activity. For defendants, their right against self-incrimination is waived when they take the stand. They cannot choose to answer some questions but not others. For defendants, it is all or nothing. Witnesses, however, are handled a bit differently.
A witness who fears self-incrimination can testify while answering some questions but not others. If a witness believes answering a question will incriminate them, they can “plead the fifth” and not answer that particular question. In cases where a witness’ testimony is extremely important, prosecutors might grant them immunity in exchange for their complete testimony. However, this courtesy is unlikely to be extended to witnesses for the defense. Contact our Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers for help with your case.
Contact Our Philadelphia Criminal Defense Attorneys
If you are a defendant or witnesses in a pending criminal proceeding, you should consult with an attorney about your testimony right away. Our Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers can help you decide if testifying is a good idea. Schedule a free legal consultation at The Law Offices of Lloyd Long by calling (215) 302-0171 to get help today.