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Posted by on in Criminal Defense

Chicago IL criminal defense attorneyWhen you have been charged with a crime and your case is set for trial, you and your attorney will need to decide if you are going to testify on your own behalf. This decision will need to take into account a variety of ethical and strategic considerations, including the nature and severity of the crimes for which you have been charged. Deciding to testify in a murder trial, for example, is much different from deciding to testify in a trial for theft or burglary. As you and your lawyer approach this decision, it is critical to understand how the choice can affect your case.

Constitutional Rights and Protections for Criminal Defendants

As a criminal defendant, you have the right to due process of law as promised by the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. You also have the right to face your accusers under the Sixth Amendment. Taken together, these rights have been interpreted in case law as giving you the right to testify in any criminal proceeding against you. Nobody involved in the case can keep you from testifying if you wish to do so, including the judge, the prosecutor, or even your own attorney.

It is also your right not to testify during your criminal trial. This right does not exist in other types of proceedings. For example, you can be required to testify in a civil trial, and failing to comply could lead to sanctions or a finding of contempt. However, the Fifth Amendment guarantees that you cannot be forced to incriminate yourself, which means that you cannot be compelled to testify when you are the defendant in a criminal case.

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