Explaining Your Decision Not To Testify At Trial

Under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, you have the right not to incriminate yourself for a crime. This right protects you from being forced to testify at your DUI trial, and it protects you from having your silence used against you.

Even though the law states you are not obligated to testify at your own trial, juries often draw negative inferences against defendants who choose not to take the stand. It is sometimes difficult for jurors to understand why an innocent person would sit silently in the face of serious criminal allegations, so it is easy for them to assume that a non-testifying defendant is guilty. To prevent this from happening, your Memphis DUI attorney will employ strategies intended to minimize the chances the jury will hold your silence against you.

During voir dire (“jury selection”), your Memphis DUI attorney will have the opportunity to question prospective jury members and hopefully determine which are most likely to view you favorably. In anticipation of your exercise of your right not to testify, your attorney will ask prospective jurors questions intended to highlight reasons an innocent defendant may choose to not testify. For instance, your Memphis DUI attorney may ask whether the prospective jurors get nervous speaking in front of an audience, whether they have ever been cross-examined before, and whether speaking to a judge makes them uncomfortable. Typically, a significant portion of the jury pool will be intimidated by public speaking and the confrontational nature of a trial. By making them aware of their own uneasiness with the idea of testifying, your Memphis DUI attorney increases the likelihood that the jurors will not hold your silence against you.

Further, your Memphis DUI attorney will imply to the jury that your decision not to testify is based on his or her instructions. For example, your Memphis DUI attorney may ask the prospective jurors the following question: “If your attorney instructed you not to testify at your trial, would you listen to your attorney’s advice?” Generally, litigants rely on their attorneys’ advice for how to conduct themselves during trial, and this question emphasizes for the jury that by not testifying you are following your attorney’s advice rather than avoiding admitting your guilt.

The extent to which your Memphis DUI attorney is able to convince the jury your silence is not indicative of your guilt will be a significant factor in your ability to obtain an acquittal at your trial for DUI.

If you need a lawyer to represent you at your trial for drunk driving, please contact Memphis DUI attorneys John H. Parker, II and David Willis.