Facing criminal charges often results in anxiety, nervousness and frustration. Your natural instinct may be to defend yourself in front of the court. However, doing so may not be in your best interests.
Fortunately, it is up to the prosecution to prove that you are guilty of a certain offense beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. You do not have to take the stand on your own behalf. You may wonder why it could put your case in jeopardy, and this article explores some of the reasons.
Juries often misinterpret behaviors and body language
If you appear nervous, anxious or otherwise uncomfortable on the stand, the jury may think you are not telling the truth. Many jurors believe that someone who tells the truth should not exhibit any signs of nervousness or anxiety about testifying. In reality, most people are nervous and anxious. Speaking in front of others makes many people uncomfortable. A physical ailment could cause you to appear uncomfortable as well.
If you cross your arms, slouch or turn your body away from the jury, its members may not trust you. Hiding a portion of your body such as putting your hand over your mouth when you speak makes a jury suspicious of what you say. Failure to make eye contact makes people think you are lying as well. Moreover, rapid blinking could also indicate anxiety or nervousness, which a jury may consider an indication of dishonesty.
There is no guarantee that a jury would misinterpret your body language, but is it worth the chance? Perception is a large part of providing testimony in court. If a jury does not think you are telling the truth, it does not matter that you are. If you suffer from "stage fright" then you may not want to get up in front of the court.
Should you be a witness for yourself?
Whether you do end up testifying on your own behalf requires careful consideration. The perception that you "have something to hide" if you exercise your right not to testify must be balanced with whether you would make a good witness. If you are unable to provide the court with the perception they expect of someone who tells the truth, then it may be better for you to decline to testify.
An honest and objective opinion from someone who has your best interests in mind is probably necessary in order to ensure that you make the most favorable decision possible for your case.