If you have been charged with a criminal offense, you will need to make a number of important decisions relating to your case before the case is resolved. Hopefully, you will only make those decisions after consulting with an experienced Nebraska criminal defense attorney. One of the most important of those decisions is whether to take your case to trial or accept a guilty plea agreement negotiate on your behalf by your attorney. If you do decide to resolve your case at trial, there will be a seemingly endless number of additional decisions your attorney must make when preparing your defense. Some of the decisions relating to your defense will directly involve you while others will not. One decision that directly involves you is whether your criminal attorney plans to have you testify or not. Before you voice your opinion on the issue, you should understand the pros and cons of putting a defendant on the stand.
Plea Agreement vs. Jury Trial
Once the State of Nebraska, through the Prosecuting Attorney, has made the decision to file criminal charges against you, there are only three ways the case can end – dismissal, guilty plea agreement, or trial. The prosecuting attorney could dismiss the charges against you if it becomes clear there is insufficient evidence to secure a conviction. Conversely, if the evidence is overwhelming, you may decide that your best option is to have your attorney negotiate the most favorable guilty plea agreement possible for you. Finally, you may decide to take your chances at a trial. If you decide to proceed to trial, a judge or jury will decide your fate. The U.S. Constitution guarantees you the right to a trial by a jury of your peers; however, you may waive that right and elect to have a “bench trial” or “trial by judge” instead. Procedural, a jury trial and bench trial are basically the same. The difference is that in a jury trial a jury of six or 12 people will hear the evidence and vote to acquit or convict you whereas in a bench trial a judge will be the only person hearing the evidence and deciding if that evidence meets the State’s burden of proving you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
How Does Your Criminal Attorney Decide on Trial Strategies?
Once you have made the decision to take your case to trial, your criminal attorney will start making important plans relating to your defense strategy. Whether or not to have you testify is something that will need to be discusses and debated at length. Putting a defendant on the stand is not a decision to be made lightly. Sometimes, the final decision isn’t made until the last minute, at trial. As the defendant you may have strong feelings one way or the other about testifying; however, you need to listen to your attorney’s opinion because there are risks involved either way. The State has the burden of proving you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In theory, that means a defendant need not put on any defense – and occasionally it is best not to if the State has clearly failed to meet its burden. Assuming you are presenting a defense, much thought will go into whether or not to put you on the stand. On one hand, juries tend to want to hear a defendant say he/she didn’t do “it.” On the other hand, as soon as you take the stand you open yourself up to cross-examination by the prosecuting attorney. Your criminal attorney must weight benefit of having the jury hear from you against the potential damage that could be done on cross-examination. Remember that the prosecuting attorney has considerable experience trying to get defendants to crack on the stand, which may mean you lose your temper, provide inconsistent testimony, or simply look bad to the jury. The decision to testify or not is important. Be sure to spend as much time as necessary discussing this particular decision with your Nebraska criminal attorney because the positive or negative ramifications of your decision could be far-reaching and long-lasting.
If you are currently facing criminal charges in the State of Nebraska, it is certainly in your best interest to consult with an experienced Nebraska criminal defense attorney right away. In Nebraska contact Petersen Criminal Defense Law 24 hours a day at 402-509-8070 to discuss your case with an experienced criminal defense attorney.
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