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Should you testify at your own criminal case?

On Behalf of | Jun 15, 2023 | Criminal Defense |

Few life experiences are as unsettling as facing criminal charges. Unfortunately, even the most conscientious citizen might find themselves on the wrong side of the law. If you are charged with a criminal offense, it helps to understand that you have legal rights to exercise. For instance, you have a right to satisfactory legal representation. You also have a right to remain silent and refrain from making remarks that can worsen your legal woes.

If your criminal case goes to trial, you may be inclined to want to give your side of the story by taking the stand in your defense. You certainly have that right. But is this always a brilliant idea? These are two things you’ll need to keep in mind should you opt to testify at your criminal trial.

You will be forfeiting your right against self-incrimination

One of the key foundations of the American justice system is an accused person’s right not to testify in their own criminal trial. In other words, neither the police nor the court can compel you to testify in your own trial. This is enshrined in the 5th Amendment. If you opt to testify, however, then you risk giving up some of your 5th Amendment protections. This is because once you take to the stand, both your defense and the prosecution will have the chance to ask you questions. And no matter how experienced or confident you are, the last thing you want is to make remarks that could be misinterpreted as incriminating.

Your conduct could give you away

During your trial, the judge and/or jury will pay close attention to your every move. And this includes your body language while on the witness stand. An evasive or nervous appearance could raise questions. And so could an aggressive or combative response to questions during your cross-examination. Basically, you do not want to give the impression that you are trying to hide something and even seemingly innocuous body language could be construed as such.

Protecting your rights

The decision to testify at your criminal trial is yours to make. That said, learning more about New Mexico’s criminal justice system can help you safeguard your rights and interests moving forward. Chances are that after you’ve sought legal guidance, you will likely determine that testifying is not going to be an effort that will serve you well.