When Is It Best To Not Speak In Court?

by | May 8, 2023 | Criminal Defense

When Staying Quiet Is The Best Way To Keep Out Of Jail

If you know that silence is sometimes golden and recognize your right to remain silent, you realize there are times when you should keep your mouth shut and not speak in court.

In the courtroom – especially in criminal courtrooms – words mean everything, and everything you say can and will be used against you. That doesn’t mean you should never speak while in court. There are certainly circumstances when a judge or jury should hear your statements or testimony.

But knowing when to open your mouth and when to keep it shut can be tricky business. Making the right choice on such matters is one of many reasons you should always have an experienced attorney representing and advising you in court.

The Right To Remain Silent – Why?

As anyone who has seen a TV police procedural show or movie knows, “You have the right to remain silent. Everything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.” That right is fundamental to the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The underlying principle behind the right to remain silent is that prosecutors cannot compel criminal defendants to be witnesses against themselves. That is what it means to “plead the Fifth.” That is, you are exercising your constitutional right to not speak in court and not to incriminate yourself.

Think of it this way. Prosecutors seeking to convict someone of a criminal offense must prove that a defendant is guilty of the charges beyond a reasonable doubt. Doing so is their job, not yours, and you are under no obligation to (nor should you) help them obtain that conviction. If they want to convict you, they must do so with testimony and evidence from others, not from you. That is why criminal defense attorneys often advise their clients not to take the stand in their own defense.

Don’t Help the Prosecution Prove Your Guilt

When facing criminal charges, you may think the allegations are unjustified, or your situation arises from a simple misunderstanding. You may mistakenly think that if only the judge, jury, or prosecutors heard your side of the story, they would understand, and the case would disappear. Your natural inclination is to want to “talk your way out” of the charges you are facing. But if you do so, you may wind up talking your way to a conviction.

El Paso County prosecutors (and Colorado Springs police officers) will pressure you to talk. These trained professionals understand that the more you say, the greater chance they have of finding something to implicate you or hurt your defense. And if you take the stand, the prosecutor who cross-examines you will be laser-focused on getting you to make a harmful admission. They will ask leading questions, try to poke holes in your story, and try to get you to contradict yourself.

The goal of prosecutors is to destroy your credibility so that the judge or jury won’t believe your sincere explanation about what actually happened. By exercising your right to not speak in court, you avoid the potentially disastrous implications of such a harsh courtroom interrogation.

Related: Can Police Lie During Interrogation in Colorado?

Your Previous Silence Can Be Used Against You If You Take The Stand

James - do not speak in court When you exercise your Fifth Amendment right to not speak in court, prosecutors cannot use that silence against you to infer or suggest your guilt.

However, if you, quite correctly, exercise your right to remain silent after your arrest but later choose to take the stand during a trial, prosecutors can, and will, use your prior silence to cast doubt on your current testimony. By not testifying at all, you can avail yourself of the complete protection the Constitution provides.

You Might Like: Why Former Prosecutors Are the Best Criminal Defense Attorneys

A Criminal Trial Is A Time For Facts, Not Emotion

Being charged with a crime and participating in a court trial that could result in you going to jail is an emotional ordeal. You may be angry and indignant at being wrongfully accused. You may be terrified of the outcome if you are convicted. On the stand, you may take offense or get angry at the prosecutor for the way they are questioning you.

These intense internal feelings are perfectly appropriate reactions to the ordeal you are going through. But they can also lead to outbursts or impulsive and inappropriate statements that will not help your case. Losing your composure in a courtroom or lashing out is not a good look for any criminal defendant. While your defense lawyer actively focuses on protecting your rights and defeating the charges, they also recognize the importance of maintaining composure. This is another reason you should not speak in court and instead let your attorney do the talking for you.

Do Not Speak in Court, But Do Speak to An Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney Today

After exercising your right to remain silent, exercise your right to an attorney by calling the experienced Colorado Springs criminal defense lawyers at James Newby Law. As former prosecutors, these tenacious and seasoned professionals use their experience and unique insight to aggressively yet ethically defend the rights of individuals facing criminal charges.

Schedule your free, confidential initial consultation today.

James Newby

James Newby

James Newby is a criminal defense attorney in Colorado Springs and the managing attorney of the criminal justice law firm James Newby Law. James got into law because of a deep-rooted passion for helping good people that may have made a poor choice that could have lasting consequences.