Your Right to Remain Silent: Should You Testify or Not?

new Minnesota laws criminal law Fargo North Dakota

In a criminal proceeding, one of the most important decisions that must be made – and a decision in which you have the final say – is whether you will take the stand and testify in your defense. This is a decision that may carry significant benefits as well as severe drawbacks.

On the one hand, testifying allows you to “tell your story” and may make you appear to be more credible and trustworthy in the eyes of the jury. Although juries are routinely instructed that defendants have a right not to testify and that no negative inference may be drawn from such a decision, some juries may nevertheless feel that you have “something to hide” if you do not testify. On the other hand, by testifying, you are permitting the prosecution to cross-examine you and ask you questions. The prosecution will also be able to attack your credibility by introducing evidence of your past dishonesty and/or convictions (under certain circumstances).

You and your criminal defense attorney will likely have an in-depth discussion about whether it is in your best interest to testify prior to trial.

Your Decision to Testify

In speaking with your criminal defense attorney about whether you will testify, keep the following considerations in mind:

  • You may change your mind … up to a point. You will not be asked to make a final decision as to whether you will testify until your trial. Once the prosecution has rested its case-in-chief, you and your attorney will be asked whether you wish to present evidence. At this point, you will need to finally decide whether you intend to testify. Even if you had previously indicated to the court you would testify, you may change your mind up to that point.
  • Your decision is typically not appealable. In other words, so long as you were properly informed as to the consequences of refusing to testify, your decision to remain silent at trial cannot be the basis of an appeal if you were to be convicted. Similarly, if you choose to testify you cannot thereafter appeal following a conviction claiming your decision to testify was an error.
  • You must make this decision yourself. Although your attorney can provide you with his or her recommendations as to what is best in your case, you decide whether you will heed such advice or not.

Contact Your North Dakota and Minnesota Criminal Defense Lawyer Right Away

Because these and other important decisions can drastically impact your chances of success at trial, retain the experienced and knowledgeable legal assistance of Tatum O’Brien and the criminal defense team at O’Keeffe O’Brien Lyson Attorneys. Our firm’s experience enables us to provide you with detailed and helpful advice concerning your choices regarding preparing and preventing your defense. Contact O’Keeffe O’Brien Lyson Attorneys today through the firm’s website, or call 701-235-8000 or 877-235-8002.