Deciding Whether or Not to Testify
If you have been charged with
driving under the influence, one of the most important decisions you will make is whether or not to
take the stand. This is a difficult question that must be thought through
carefully, and an Orange County DUI attorney can help you determine whether
it is a good idea. You are not required to testify, but if you do, the
prosecution has the right to cross-examine you. If you do not testify,
the judge will instruct the jurors not to draw any conclusions from the
fact that you are not testifying; however, you cannot always rely on jurors
to follow that instruction.
Jurors want some explanation from a defendant for the evidence that the
prosecution has put forward. Why do the police officers claim that they
observed signs of intoxication? Why does the breathalyzer test say what
it does? You may be the only witness who can testify as to everything
that happened before, during, and after your arrest, which puts you in
the position of being the person best-equipped to tell the story. In some
cases, you may be the only witness the defense can call, and the case
comes down to your word against the police (or the breathalyzer).
Tips for Testifying at Your Trial
Going to trial for a DUI charge can be an intensely frightening and intimidating
experience. The prospect may be so frightening that you are sure you would
rather accept a guilty plea than try to plead your innocence. However,
an experienced criminal lawyer can help you formulate a defense strategy
and prepare you for when you take the stand in your own defense. Your
attorney will know that you are not a professional witness and that the
experience can be nerve-wracking.
Here are some tips that may help you prepare for your testimony:
- It's fine to be nervous; the jury will understand, so it is okay to admit it.
- Be sure to listen closely to every question by the lawyers.
- Count to three before answering, as it will allow you to think about your answer.
- Keep your answers simple and specific, and do not elaborate or go into
- Look at the jury when answering, and do not look down in your lap.
- Try to make eye contact with individual jurors, and find someone who looks friendly.
- It is okay to answer, "I don't know," if you truly don't
know the answer.
Weighing the Pros & Cons of Your Potential Testimony
The decision to testify at your own trial is extremely important and may
have great bearing on the final outcome of your case. You have to weigh
both the pros and cons of the effect that your testimony could have on
your case. As with anything, there are both advantages and disadvantages
to testifying at your DUI trial. More importantly, a large part of your
decision to testify will depend on how sympathetic the jury will find
you. You must remember that nothing sinks a defense case faster than the
testimony of an unlikeable, unbelievable and unsympathetic defendant.
On the other hand, if you decide not to testify, the jury may think that
you have something to hide. Giving the jury a chance to see the actual
person being accused can do much to elicit their sympathy. Therefore,
you should give this decision careful thought. If you decide to testify,
you will need to prepare by reviewing the kinds of questions you will
be asked and how to answer them in a way to help your defense. Your Orange
County DUI lawyer will not coach you on what to say. Rather, they will
provide you with some general topics as to what you should expect and
keep in mind.
Furthermore, unless there was a passenger, you are the only person who
can contradict the officer's testimony about your arrest. However,
there are also major pitfalls to testifying. No witness can damage your
case as much as you can; if you make any mistakes while testifying or
being cross-examined by the prosecution, it could dramatically reduce
your chances of being found not guilty. If you make a bad first impression,
it could negatively affect your case. Furthermore, you open yourself up
to cross examination by the prosecution, which may allow them to paint
you in a negative light.
Some of these downsides can be mitigated. If you choose to testify, you
will be coached by your attorney to handle being cross-examined and to
present yourself in a manner that is likely to make a good first impression
and garner sympathy. However, ultimately, your lawyer's recommendation
as to whether or not you should testify will be based on a comparison
of how your testimony can strengthen your case with how your cross-examination
can strengthen the prosecution's case.
If you have been charged with drunk driving, do not hesitate to
set up a free consultation with The Law Office of Barney B. Gibbs today. We can put 30+ years of
experience to work for you.