Should I testify in my case in Florida?
When you are represented by an attorney in your criminal case, the attorney has a large amount of control over how to proceed with your defense. A good attorney will always listen and try to proceed in a fashion that you direct him to, but ultimately the strategy is generally up to the attorney. However, there are a few decisions left solely within your discretion that an attorney cannot make for you. One very important right is your ability to testify on your behalf. This is a decision that attorney may advise you on, but it is ultimately up to you. It is a decision not to be taken lightly.
Many individuals charged with a crime want a jury or a judge to hear their side of the story. Taking the stand and telling what happened can be beneficial and cathartic, but testifying may not always be in your best interest.
There are a number of issues that arise when someone testifies on their own behalf that would not arise if one chose to remain silent.
One issue is any prior felony convictions or crimes of dishonesty may be revealed to the jury. Generally, prosecutors cannot bring up your prior criminal history to the jury. However, if you choose to testify, Florida law allows the prosecutor to reveal any felony convictions or convictions for crimes of dishonesty (theft, perjury, etc.) to impugn your credibility.
Second, there may be some evidence in your case that would not be admissible against you if you do not testify and testifying would then allow the prosecution to present that additional evidence to the jury.
Finally, even if you do not have any prior criminal history and there is no additional evidence at issue, you will still be subject to cross-examination by the prosecutor. Even if you are not easily stressed and are prepared for any question that may arise, even small admissions from you will count heavily in the minds of the jury.
Each case is unique. This is not meant to be legal advice for your particular case. If you wish to discuss your case with one of our attorneys, please call (941) 444-5128.