Defending Yourself In a Criminal Defense Trial: Should You Testify?

If you have been accused of a crime, you and your criminal defense attorney have at least two significant decisions to consider.

  1. Should you go to trial?
  2. Should you testify?

In TV and in the movies, we see the accused and their criminal defense attorneys make these decisions with high drama. Conventional wisdom suggests that, if you are innocent of a crime, you should answer both questions affirmatively and defend your good name. It also suggests that, if you are guilty, then you should either plea bargain or "take the 5th" and refuse to testify.

However, in real life, these decisions are not so simple. Whether or not you are innocent or guilty may not be a cut and dry question. It depends on what you are accused of and what evidence exists that you are guilty of that crime. Moreover, should you decide to testify, you naturally have a concern that you may get tripped up by a slick prosecuting attorney and "impeach" yourself, even if you are wrongly accused.

Did you know that there are specific rules that govern how "slick" trial attorneys can be when it comes to examining a witness? These rules include:

Below are some types of Rules regarding a witness under Article VI:

  • Rule 608 - Evidence of Character and Conduct of Witness
    • 608(a) - Opinion and reputation evidence of character
    • 608(b) - Specific instances of conduct
  • Rule 609 - Impeachment by Evidence of Conviction of Crime
    • 609(a) - General rule: Purpose of attacking the character for truthfulness of a witness
    • 609(b) - Time limit
  • Rule 613 - Prior Statements of Witnesses
    • 613(a) - Examining witness concerning prior statement
    • 613(b) - Extrinsic evidence of prior inconsistent statement of witness

Another Rule that can override Rule 608(b) is that of FRE 613(b). In order for 613(b) to be effective, it is necessary for a witness who previously made unclear or inconsistent statements the chance to deny or explain what they originally meant. It is then that Rule 613(b) permits the use of any extrinsic proof, such as other corroborating witness's testimony, video surveillance, voice recordings etc. The use of Rule 608(b) was used in the court case United States v. Rodriguez, 539 F. Supp.2d 592 (D. Ct. 2008), read more here.

Have you been charged with a crime and know the rights that apply to you in a court of law? Contact an experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney to help in your case today.

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