Should You Testify at Your Criminal Trial?

criminal trial

When you have been charged with a crime and your case is going to trial, a big question is often whether or not you should testify. The prosecution carries the burden of proving you are guilty and there is no requirement that you must testify. However, depending upon your specific case, sometimes taking the stand may be to your advantage. 

Direct vs. Cross-Examination

Both the prosecution and the defense are allowed to call witnesses to testify. These individuals must swear to tell the whole truth. Direct examination is when your attorney questions you, and these questions are prepared in advance of trial. During this part of the trial, you are allowed to share your version of what has transpired. After that, the prosecution has the right to begin their cross-examination with you. 

Cross-examination includes the other attorney asking questions about your testimony as well as questions relating to your credibility (or lack thereof).

Redirect Examination

After cross-examination, your attorney would have a re-direct examination during which he or she would ask questions that could help to overcome any false impressions that the prosecution caused or to clear up any confusion. 

Every prosecutor has his or her style of cross-examining a witness. Some are more theatrical in their presentation and put on a show, whereas others may calmer and try to catch you in a slip-up. 


If the side that called the witness feels that the other attorney has asked an improper question, they can choose to object to it. After providing their reasoning for the objection, the judge will decide as to whether the question can be asked. 

Why May You Wish to Testify

The whole point of testifying is to explain your side of the story and to show that your accusers are wrong. You can use the opportunity to show your decency. While the decision not to take the stand shouldn’t be held against you, it may be human nature for some people to wonder why you wouldn’t want to speak out if you are innocent. The weaker the prosecution’s case usually the less need there is for you to testify.

Since the prosecution has the burden of proof, the defense can ask for the case to be dismissed after it presents its case for failure to meet this burden. If the judge agrees that the burden has not been met, the case will be over. But if the judge feels that the burden has been met, the case will continue. If this happens and the case continues because the judge feels that there has been enough proof presented, it may become more important for you to testify after all so that your testimony can create reasonable doubt. 

When all is said and done, the decision of whether to testify is up to the client alone. This is why it’s in your best interest to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorney who can provide you with their advice for what may be best for you. 

Surovell Isaacs & Levy PLC Can Help Those in VA Who Have Been Charged with a Crime

If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime, it can have a big impact. A criminal conviction can change your life even more, affecting it in just about all aspects. That’s why you shouldn’t have to deal with such charges – or the decision of whether to testify – on your own. It’s in your best interest to speak with a qualified criminal defense attorney at Surovell Isaacs & Levy PLC. We understand what’s at stake and will work to protect our clients and that which is in their best interest. To learn more or to schedule a consultation, contact us today!

Posted in: Criminal Law