You have the right not to testify during your defense
It is often difficult to know what to do or say when faced with a criminal charge, especially if the matter goes to court. If your defense is inadequate, you could face serious penalties, including a prison term or hefty fines. However, as we discussed in a previous article, you are innocent unless proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt.
In that post, we looked at some of the defenses you might employ if charged with a criminal offense. The best defense can vary dramatically depending on your situation and the accusations against you. Sometimes you may be worried that anything you say will simply make things worse. In such cases, you may be better not to say anything at all.
Fortunately, as is explained here, you have the right under the Fifth Amendment not to incriminate yourself. This means you do not have to testify if you are worried that your words may do more harm than good. This is known as pleading the Fifth. However, it is important to remember that if you do agree to testify, you cannot pick and choose the questions you answer. You will be expected to answer all questions with which you are presented.
If you choose to plead the Fifth, this refusal to testify is not allowed to count against you during the jury’s decision. However, this is not the case in civil trials and juries in such trials may draw conclusions based on your refusal to testify. It can be difficult to decide on the correct course of action, especially when you are burdened by worries about what the future may hold. However, an attorney can support you through this difficult time and help you decide on the path that is best for you.
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