Defendant’s Testimony at a Criminal Trial –
A natural instinct among people is to tell their side of the story when something negative occurs in life. The same holds true for a person charged with a crime and faced with the prospect of a criminal trial. A person charged with a crime must understand the fundamentals associated with testifying as a defendant’s testimony at a criminal trial can have a sweeping impact on the case.
The Right for a Criminal Defendant to Testify
A defendant in a criminal proceeding has the absolute right to testify at a trial. The decision whether or not to testify ultimately must be made by the criminal defendant his or herself. Of course, a defendant needs to consult with legal counsel prior to making such a decision. But, again, in the final analysis, the decision as to whether to take the stand in a criminal trial is the right of the defendant to make.
Decision Not to Testify Cannot Be Held Against a Defendant
The decision of a defendant not to testify at his or her trial cannot be held against him or her when a jury is deliberating on a verdict in a case. In fact, an important jury instruction utilized by judges in cases where a defendant elects not to testify addresses this issue. The jury is told that a defendant has the right not to testify. And, by electing not to testify, a jury cannot conclude that the decision is somehow evidenced of guilt.
The Issue of Cross Examination
A primary reason why a defendant in a criminal case may elect not to testify rests in the fact that by doing so, he or she is subject to cross examination by the prosecuting attorney. Cross examination, by its very nature, is a grueling experience that can have a detrimental impact on an otherwise fairly strong defendant’s case.
Retaining Legal Counsel
The downsides to testifying at a criminal trial work to underscore the need for legal representation in that type of case. A Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney, such as David C. McKenzie III, will schedule an initial consultation with a potential client at no obligation and no charge to the client. A person charged with a crime should be highly proactive in retaining legal representation in order to best protect and preserve his or her important rights and interests.