Testifying in Your DUI Trial is a Double-Edged Sword

With absolute certainty, you have the right not to testify in your DUI criminal trial; neither the prosecutor nor judge can compel you to do so. This is a constitutional guarantee. Should you choose to testify in your DUI trial, your Memphis DUI attorney will explain to you that the prosecutor then has an absolute right to cross-examine you; in fact, he or she will without a doubt exercise that right.

These legal issues are quite clear, but your ultimate strategy in deciding to testify or not likely will be determined by what is in your best interests depending on the facts and circumstances of your case.

Reasons to Testify

Primarily, the reason to testify is because the jury wants to hear, directly from you, what happened. The jury will hear from the arresting officer(s) and perhaps expert witnesses as to breathalyzer readings and other law enforcement witnesses as part of the prosecution’s case.

Official testimony, however, relates only to hard facts. The testimony you may give will be personal. What actually occurred? How much did you actually drink? What does the police testimony fail to state? In many cases, the individual defendant in a DUI trial is the only witness for the defense, and in almost every case, he or she is the only individual who knows all the relevant facts and circumstances of the incident leading to the arrest.

Reasons Not to Testify

Prosecutors are well trained in cross-examination techniques. You, as a DUI defendant, likely have no experience in a courtroom. This alone is a reason to consider not testifying.

Additionally, if you do testify, you may need to hire expert witnesses in support of the testimony you present. For example, a large majority of DUI cases that go to trial involve competing expert witnesses. The prosecution clearly has the resources to bring in whomever it needs, but if you choose to testify and challenge either the breathalyzer results or the blood alcohol results, you will need to have a credible expert witness. Such witnesses are not inexpensive.

Yes, you may not testify. Yes, the Court will instruct the jury that should you choose not to testify they, the jury, are not permitted to make any negative conclusions based upon that decision not to testify. But jurors are people who often do as they wish, despite instructions.

If you’re facing a trial for DUI, you will need the help of an experienced and dedicated Memphis DUI lawyer who will fight on your behalf. For a free consultation with a staff member of the offices of John H. Parker, II and David Willis, seasoned Memphis-area DUI lawyers, simply fill out the form on this page.