If you are charged with a crime in Virginia, you must exercise your legal rights. You have the right to remain silent. You cannot be forced to testify against or incriminate yourself. You also have the right to be advised and represented by a good Roanoke criminal defense attorney.

Even before you are arrested and charged with a crime, it is imperative to have the right defense attorney working on your behalf. Whenever a law enforcement officer wants to speak with you about a crime, you should exercise your legal rights and demand to speak with a lawyer before answering any questions, because whatever you say can and will be used against you in court even if you do not choose to testify at trial.

If you are convicted in Virginia even for a misdemeanor charge, the penalties for that conviction may include probation, a costly fine, or even time in jail.

Most criminal cases are resolved with plea deals, but if you are pleading not guilty, and if the charge against you cannot be dropped or dismissed, you have the right to demand a jury trial. However, being prosecuted for a crime is one of the most difficult experiences you will endure.

What Will a Defense Attorney Recommend?

If a criminal charge has been filed against you, it is essential to adhere to your defense attorney’s advice and recommendations. Most defense lawyers in Virginia, for example, will advise a defendant not to testify in a criminal trial.

In almost all criminal cases, the better defense strategy is to demand that the prosecution prove its case against you beyond a reasonable doubt. The right to remain silent is a right granted to everyone by the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The defendant in a criminal trial has a constitutional right not to testify and must be presumed innocent until proven guilty – whether or not he or she takes the stand.

How Do Prosecutors Handle Defendants Who Testify?

With a defendant’s freedom and future at stake, many defendants are nervous or stressed-out. Prosecutors can take advantage of that stress, and even well-prepared defendants can be tricked into tripping over their own words and saying something that might be deemed incriminating.

Under stress, anyone could be confused by a trick question or a question that you did not fully understand. The simplest mistake or misstatement can discredit a defendant on the witness stand. This is one reason why it is almost always better if a defendant does not testify in a criminal trial.

Trial juries are another reason why a defendant ordinarily should not testify at a criminal trial. Jurors should be focused strictly on the evidence and the facts. A jury’s task is to determine whether or not the prosecutor has proven the state’s case.

What Happens When Defendants Testify?

But when defendants testify, what happens is that juries tend to shift their focus, and they expect a defendant to say something that will prove either guilt or innocence definitively. When a defendant testifies in a criminal trial, that testimony is inevitably what determines the verdict.

Every criminal trial is unique, and conceivably there may be cases where a defendant’s own testimony may be helpful, but those cases are extremely rare. Ordinarily, a Roanoke criminal defense lawyer would not recommend letting a client take the witness stand.

If you are a defendant in a criminal trial, the final choice to testify or to stay silent is yours alone. Your lawyer cannot stop you if you are determined to take the stand. You may very much want to speak on your own behalf and clear your name, but there is almost always a better strategy.

What Will a Criminal Defense Attorney Do on Your Behalf?

As much as you would like to “tell your side of the story,” that is your attorney’s job. The right attorney will make sure that your side of the story is plainly told and fully understood. Your attorney will find the flaws in the state’s case and develop an effective strategy for your defense.

In almost all cases, if you are represented by the right criminal defense attorney, your testimony in a trial should not be required. After reviewing the charge and the evidence against you, your lawyer can probably determine if the state can prove your guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Your defense attorney may ask the prosecutor to drop the charge or may ask the court to dismiss the case. Your attorney may also file a “motion to suppress” to keep certain evidence from being used against you.

What if the Case Against You is Persuasive?

Especially if your rights were violated by the police or if you have been falsely accused, your defense attorney may be able to have the charge dropped or the case dismissed quickly.

If these options are not available, your attorney can take the case to trial and explain to the jurors why they should find you not guilty. But if the state’s case is persuasive, and if a conviction is probable, your lawyer may recommend accepting a plea deal for reduced or alternative sentencing.

What is Important to Remember?

Whether you are innocent or guilty as charged, if you are accused of a crime, the right defense lawyer will do what it takes to bring your case to its best possible conclusion. What is important to remember if you are placed under arrest in the Roanoke area and charged with a crime?

1. You have the right to remain silent.
2. You can demand to have your lawyer present for any questioning.
3. Anything you say can be used against you in a court of law.
4. You can demand a jury trial.
5. You must secure the right attorney’s advice and representation at once.

Do not under any circumstances answer the questions of a law enforcement officer or a prosecutor – except to explain that you are exercising your right to remain silent – unless your own defense attorney is present.

Anyone Could Need an Attorney’s Help

Even if you have not been placed under arrest, your right to remain silent and your right to an attorney are constitutional rights that you have right now and at all times. Your rights do not “kick in” only because an arrest has been made or a charge has been filed against you.

It is important to know your rights, and if you face a criminal charge, it is important to exercise those rights. Anyone could be accused of a crime and need an attorney’s help. If that happens, make the call to a Roanoke criminal defense attorney at once, and heed that attorney’s advice.