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Will I Have To Testify If I Go To Trial For A DUI?

By June 16, 2017 DUI Law

Getting arrested for a DUI is stressful. When someone is arrested, they begin to think about what comes next, including trial. If someone has been arrested for a DUI and their case ends up at trial, don’t worry. They don’t have to testify.

Constitutional Protection

The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution gives individuals the right to avoid self-incrimination. Self-incrimination means exposing oneself to criminal prosecution or implicating oneself to a crime.

This right has been interpreted to mean that during a trial, a defendant does not need to get on the witness stand and offer any testimony. An attorney can do all the talking for the defendant.

Will I Seem Guilty If I Don’t Testify?

There is a misconception that if someone doesn’t testify during trial, they must be hiding something. This is an inaccurate point of view, and the defendant should not feel compelled to testify because of that perception.

As discussed above, the Constitution states that no one has to testify in a trial against them. If a case goes to trial, an attorney will explain this concept to the jury to ensure that everyone in the courtroom understands that not testifying has nothing to do with one’s guilt or innocence.

Also, the prosecution is never allowed to mention that the defendant is not testifying, let alone use that fact to try to convince the jury of the defendant’s guilt. By not testifying, the jury is forced to focus on the attorneys and the evidence presented in the case instead of words and appearance.

What If I Want To Testify?

Generally, attorneys in DUI cases advise their clients against testifying. The reason for this is that there are lots of complicated legal rules regarding questioning a witness, and the prosecution will use those rules to his advantage if he has the chance.

The main concern with defendant testimony is that they may say something that opens the door to an examination of their character. Character is a term used in the legal world to encompass morality, past crimes, and truthfulness.

While on the stand, if the defendant answers a question or mentions something regarding their character, even unintentionally, the prosecution is then allowed to ask questions about other aspects of their character, which can lead to the jury getting an incorrect and negative opinion about the defendant.

Also, if the defendant is on the stand, everyone in the courtroom will be focused on them instead of their attorney. This would make anyone nervous, and could cause someone to give unclear answers or seem unconfident.
There may be reasons why someone feels like they should testify. The defendant is likely a good person who made a mistake, and they believe that the jury would trust them and want to find them not guilty if the jury heard what they have to say.

While this may be true, keep in mind that the courtroom is a tense environment, and the prosecution will do everything they can to make the defendant seem like a criminal. Avoiding that situation will reduce stress during the trial.
If the defendant nonetheless decides to testify, they will be allowed to do so. An attorney will help them to prepare for this by going over the questions the prosecution will likely ask, going over what they should and should not say to avoid an examination of their character, and advising them on how to appear professional and confident on the stand.

The Sentencing Phase

In the unfortunate event that you are found guilty at trial, there will be a sentencing phase after the verdict is read. Criminal trials are divided into two phases – the guilt or innocence phase and the sentencing phase. The guilt or innocence phase is what people generally associate with trial.

It is where the evidence is presented and the attorneys examine witnesses and present to the jury. After a guilty verdict, a sentencing phase begins, which determines the punishment that should be given to the defendant. During this stage of the trial, the defendant may or may not choose to testify.

Unlike the guilt or innocence phase, this part of the trial allows defendants to testify without being questioned by attorneys or subject to cross examination. That means the defendant can explain to the jury what they have done since the arrest (attended treatment, volunteered, kept a position as a student or within a job, etc.) and why they deserve a lighter sentence.

Contact Beahm Law Today

In order to avoid a guilty verdict, it is imperative to seek out legal council for your defense. If you were arrested for DUI contact Beahm Law today to help defend your case and get the information you need. Call 415-493-8677 now or contact us online.