The justice system in the United States is founded on one core principle: you are innocent until proven guilty. The founding fathers believed so strongly in that statement that they wrote a constitutional amendment to protect criminal defendants. This Fifth Amendment is found in the Bill of Rights and guarantees criminal defendants the right to refuse to testify in their trial.
None of this is to say that refusing to testify is always in your best interest. Instead, it is a key decision to consider when presenting your defense case. While the most helpful resource is always a good Denver criminal defense attorney, below are some helpful points to think about.
The decision to testify is all or nothing. In a trial, you only have two choices. You can either testify or choose not to testify. You cannot choose to answer some questions and remain silent when asked others. Therefore, this decision is vital to the presentation of your defense because, regardless of which option you pick, you are all in on your choice.
The decision to testify allows you to control your story. When you take the stand, you have the opportunity to tell your version of the story. Your testimony could be the crucial piece that tears apart the prosecution’s case and brings reasonable doubt into the courtroom. Moreover, it allows you to tell the truth directly to the jury and convince them of your innocence. Juries often find it very powerful to listen to your side of the story.
The decision to testify subjects you to a cross examination. A prosecutor’s cross examination can be an emotionally grueling experience. This is the state’s chance to paint you in a bad light. It allows the prosecutor to expose any holes that your testimony may have. They can attack your truthfulness and even, in certain cases, expose your past criminal history. A strong cross examination could expose key weak spots to the jury, even if you’re not guilty.
The decision to testify does not guarantee that the jury will follow the law. Although judges always direct the jury not to consider a refusal to testify as an implication of guilt, this instruction is unable to remove the natural element of human bias from the minds of the jury. Research in this area shows that juries often see guilt in silence and see a refusal to testify as evidence that the defendant “has something to hide.”
The decision to testify is always a strategic choice. A good criminal defense attorney can help you weigh these factors. They will review the unique circumstances of your case. Based on that information, they can advise you about whether or not telling your story is worth the trade-off of a cross examination. They can pick the right jurors during jury selection to make sure there is no bias again a decision not to testify. Most of all, a relentless criminal defense attorney will be sure to communicate with you and strategize about this key decision as they will always have your best interests in mind.
If you or someone you know needs an experienced and relentless Denver criminal defense attorney to help guide you through this decision, contact Krizman Law right now at 303.529.2677.
Mr. Krizman is a criminal defense attorney in Denver, Colorado. He specializes in providing relentless defense for domestic violence, DUI, and drug crimes. He is a former public defender who has also worked for a district attorney and is licensed in the State of Colorado, and the United States Federal Court, District of Colorado. Mr. Krizman is a member of the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar, Colorado Bar Association, Denver Bar Association, and Arapahoe County Bar Association. A Colorado native, he has a law degree from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, and a bachelor’s degree in Government and World Affairs from the University of Tampa. Contact him today at 720.819.7317.