Criminal Defense Tips: Testifying in Court

Apr 01, 2015

If you're going to be testifying in a criminal case, it's important that you prepare properly ahead of time. This is particularly the case if you are the defendant. As a criminal defendant, you have a Constitutional Right not to testify if you choose not to do so; however, equally important is your right to testify as well. If you choose to take the witness stand, the following criminal defense tips will help you be ready when the time comes:

Careful Personal Grooming
On the day before you testify, you should get a very conservative and neat haircut. In fact, be as neat and clean as possible. Women should wear conservative clothes, such as a long skirt and a blouse with a high collar or a pantsuit. Men should come to court wearing a neatly pressed suit, a crisp white shirt, a dark tie, and dress shoes.

Attention to Body Language
Body language is important, so don't slump while you're on the stand. Make sure you face the jurors from time to time during your testimony. You have to choose the right moments for doing this, such as when you're being asked a pointed question about whether you committed a crime or not. Turning to the jury to say when you provide your response is essential and can be an effective way to convey your sincerity.

Use a Clear Tone of Voice
While you certainly don't want to raise your voice or sound like you're agitated on the stand, you should definitely speak loud enough and clearly enough that the jury and the judge can easily understand your answers. Mumbled, inarticulate responses will only help make you look guilty in the eyes of the jury.

Don't Rush Your Answers
You're not in a race with the prosecutor, so just because he or she fires questions at you at a rapid pace doesn't mean you have to answer them that way. Slow down and think about your answers. Your goal should be to answer the questions to the best of your ability. If you don't know the answer, you should simply say so.

Treat the Prosecutor Courteously
When you're on the stand, make sure you treat the prosecutor the same way you treat your own lawyer. Yes, this individual is trying to put you behind bars, but responding to their questions in a hostile manner will only hurt you in the eyes of the jury. Regardless of what the prosecutor says or asks, give calm and courteous answers.


Review your Prior Statements

This is perhaps the most important area of all when it comes to testifying in court. Review prior statements that you provided to the police in their reports and prior testimony that you gave during previous testimony. If you don't do this, you are only hoping that the prosecutor is asleep at the wheel. A prosecutor who does their job will have reviewed these statements and is looking at the slightest opportunity to hammer you with something you said previously which was inconsistent.  In addition, this also gives you the chance of explaining statements that were taken down incorrectly. Make sure you also have a copy of those statements with you when you take the stand, just in case the prosecutor or an attorney asks you to review those statements to refresh our memory. 

If you have any further questions about testifying or your case in general, please contact us.

Category: Criminal Cases

Michael Mitchell

Michael Mitchell is a Fresno attorney who practices in the areas of DUI, personal injury & criminal law. Visit his Google+ profile.

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The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation.  Testimonials displayed on this website do not constitute a guarantee, warranty, or prediction regarding the outcome of your legal matter

Michael E. Mitchell, at the Mitchell Law Group, Inc., is one of the top DUI defense attorneys in Fresno, California. He has over a decade of experience handling DUI cases throughout the Central Valley, including in Clovis, Madera, Tulare, Visalia. He is a certified field sobriety instructor and practitioner under the standards of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and is a member of the California DUI Lawyers Association. His advice and knowledge is, routinely, sought after by other attorneys practicing in the area of DUI defense. He is an expert in the area of DUI defense in both Federal, State, and on the Appellate level. If your looking for the best DUI Lawyer in Fresno to handle your case, give us a call today to see how we can put our knowledge to work for you.