Driving under the influence (DUI) carries severe penalties under New Jersey law. As a result, if you have a DUI charge pending, you need to defend yourself by all means available. But, does this mean that you should testify in your New Jersey DUI case?
Deciding whether to testify in your own defense requires a careful assessment of a variety of different factors—from the facts of your case to how you will come across on the witness stand. While testifying can be helpful in some cases, it can be harmful in others. There is no single “right” answer, and you will need to make an informed decision based on your New Jersey DUI defense attorney’s advice.
3 Important Factors to Consider When Deciding Whether to Testify at Your New Jersey DUI Trial
When deciding whether to testify in your own defense at your New Jersey DUI trial, it will be essential to consider factors such as:
1. A Judge Will Determine the Facts of Your DUI Case
Since a DUI is a traffic offense rather than a crime in New Jersey, you are not entitled to a trial by jury. This means that a judge will hear the evidence and decide the outcome of your case. A “bench” trial is very different from a jury trial, and this can have varying implications for whether it makes sense to testify. On the one hand, the judge will have a much clearer understanding of the law, and there is virtually no risk that he or she will interpret a decision not to testify as knowledge of guilt. On the other hand, a judge is also much more likely to take your testimony at face value and not make flawed assumptions based on your disposition or personality.
2. If You Choose to Testify, the Prosecutor Can Cross-Examine You
If you choose to testify in your defense, the prosecutor will have the opportunity to cross-examine you. While this might be fine if you do not have anything to hide, many prosecutors are skilled interrogators, and many defendants get nervous and make mistakes when confronted on the witness stand. As a result, in addition to preparing your “direct” testimony, if you choose to testify, you need to make sure that you are prepared to respond to the prosecutor’s cross-examination as well.
3. You May (or May Not) Have Better Defense Strategies Available
Since testifying involves a certain amount of risk regardless of your case’s facts, it is important to consider the other DUI defense strategies you have available when deciding whether to testify. Is the prosecution’s evidence insufficient to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt? Do you have evidence other than your testimony that you can introduce at trial? If you do not need to testify, it may be in your best interests not to do so—and this is true regardless of whether or not you are guilty of DUI.
Discuss Your Case with a New Jersey DUI Defense Lawyer in Confidence
At Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A., our lawyers represent individuals facing DUI charges throughout New Jersey. If you are facing a New Jersey DUI charge, you need to speak with an attorney, and we encourage you to call 877-435-6371 or contact us online to schedule an initial consultation.