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Why You Should Not Testify in Your Criminal Case

Posted on in Criminal Law

Why You Should Not Testify in Your Criminal CaseWhen accused of a crime that you did not commit, it is human nature to want to tell everyone that you are innocent and explain why. However, it is almost always a bad idea to put a criminal defendant on the witness stand during his or her trial. There is too much potential for a jury to misconstrue your testimony, ultimately hurting your case. You are better served by making the prosecution prove the charge and letting the evidence speak for you.


Certain jurors may assume that your decision to not testify is a tacit admission of guilt, even though the court will instruct them to not make that assumption. However, testifying in court could do greater damage to your image. It is difficult to convincingly explain your innocence because your behavior will influence the jury more than your words:

  • Behaving nervously seems like you are trying to hide the truth;
  • Behaving emotionally makes you appear unstable, which is particularly bad if you are accused of a violent crime; and
  • Jurors could interpret a lack of emotion as you being cold and unfeeling.


You can practice how to answer questions that your defense attorney will ask you, but the cross-examination is the most dangerous part of testifying. Prosecutors will use the opportunity to ask you a series of tough questions in order to discredit your previous testimony or get you to unintentionally incriminate yourself. Their tactic is to wear you down with persistent and carefully worded questions until you:

  • Give an answer that strengthens their case against you; or
  • Lose your composure, which will hurt the jury’s perception of you.

Trust Your Defense

Testifying yourself in your criminal case is often unnecessary because you are not required to prove your innocence. The prosecution bears the burden of presenting evidence that definitively proves that you are guilty of the charge against you. Your defense can counter the prosecution by scrutinizing the prosecution’s evidence and witnesses and presenting its own evidence. Your testimony will add little to your defense, and the jury’s perception of your testimony can distract from the facts of the case. The jury should base its decision on the evidence presented during the trial and not the jurors' personal opinions of you.

Contact a Crystal Lake Criminal Defense Lawyer

You can choose to take a risk by testifying in your criminal case, but your defense attorney will likely advise you against it. A McHenry County criminal defense attorney at Botto Gilbert Lancaster, PC, can present a strong defense in your case that does not require your testimony. To schedule a free consultation, call 815-338-3838. 



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