One of the thorniest issues for any Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyer and client is whether the defendant should take the stand and testify in their own defense.
Although we understand the general inclination of our clients to “have their day in court,” clearing your name isn’t nearly as simple as courtroom TV dramas might suggest. It’s true that a defendant’s testimony can make or break a case. But that also means any defendant who takes the stand in their own Florida criminal trial is also taking some enormous risks. Sometimes it’s necessary, but it’s never a judgment call that should be made flippantly.
It’s important to point out that few criminal cases in Florida ever make it to the trial phase. The vast majority are either dismissed or settled with plea agreements, typically on reduced charges. Having a skilled defense attorney might increase the odds that your charges will be dropped early on, but it could also boost the chances of a trial. That’s because with a knowledgeable advocate,. you’re far less likely to settle in cases where there is weak or minimal evidence against you.
Y0u Aren’t Required to Testify in Your Criminal Case
While the court system has ways of compelling testimony from other witnesses in your case, the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution essentially prohibits an inquisition. You are protected against being compelled in any case to be a witness against yourself.
That same protection is outlined in Section 9 of the Florida Constitution, where it states that “No person shall be… compelled in any criminal matter to be a witness against oneself.” Prosecutors can’t use this fact against you for declining to do so, and you can’t be penalized for it.
So if you don’t want to testify, you are under zero obligation to do so. And there may be very good reasons your Fort Lauderdale defense lawyer might agree with that’s the best course of action.