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Testifying at Your Arizona DUI Trial: Factors to Consider Before Taking the Stand

When your DUI case goes to trial in Arizona, it can sometimes be hard to decide whether you, as the defendant, should testify at trial. However, there are some factors that you can weigh to help determine whether or not to testify at your own DUI trial.

Here's the hypothetical: The Government's blood or breath alcohol content results come back significantly higher than what should be expected based on the known amount of alcohol that you consumed. Regardless of the facts of your case, the State has decided to proceed to trial, and you and your DUI defense attorney have decided that you should put your DUI case in front of a jury. One of the first decisions to make is whether or not you should testify in your own defense.

On one hand, you have things to say to the jury deciding your fate. The jury will probably want to hear from you. On the other hand, you likely have little or no experience testifying in courtroom settings, and you think that everyone in the room is expecting you to say whatever you need to in order get out of trouble, and that you will lack credibility.

So, here are a few factors that should be considered in determining whether you should testify at your own Arizona DUI trial.

•1. How is your delivery on the stand?

Most people are uncomfortable with public speaking. If you add the stress of a DUI trial, the content of your testimony can be outweighed by your delivery. Jurors may confuse extreme nervousness with attempted deception. This could be fatal for your case.

Good DUI defense attorneys work with their clients, often for hours, on tricks for public speaking. If you need to picture everyone in the room naked, then do so, but your ability to communicate your version of events must be done in a cogent manner.

•2. Do you understand your role in the DUI trial?

Most people wrongfully accused of a crime want an opportunity to advocate their innocence. That is the job of your DUI defense attorney. Your role when testifying varies depending on the facts of your case, but without exception, requires your ability to express the events of the incident. Facts, facts, facts.

Your job is to tell your story, not advocate your position. If you are too impassioned and cannot keep from advocating, then perhaps you should reconsider testifying.

•3. Tell the truth.

A common misconception is that criminal defense attorneys tell their DUI clients what stories to tell on the stand. It is unethical to do so, and should not happen.

What most competent DUI defense attorneys do is listen to your story, and help you understand what is important and what is extraneous. Debating whether a car is blue or black only serves to aggravate jurors who are taking time out of their day to be on your jury panel. Simply telling them the truth of what happened to the best of your recollection, and emphasizing the parts that have the most bearing in your DUI case, can be best.

•4. Will your testimony help or hurt your DUI case?

This seems simple, but needing to tell the jury that you're not the type of person to drink and drive because of all of the nice things you do for children's charities is not a defense to a DUI charge. You must be able to cogently explain the events of the evening leading up to the time of the DUI arrest, and understand what is and is not relevant to the DUI case.

Overall, you should discuss with an Arizona DUI defense attorney the pros and cons to testifying at your own DUI trial, and consider the factors necessary, before reaching a decision as to whether or not to take the stand.

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