Switch to ADA Accessible Website
Orlando Criminal Lawyer

Can A Judge Ask If You Waive Your Right To Testify?

Judge

Under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, you cannot be compelled to “be a witness against” yourself in a criminal case. In other words, you cannot be forced to testify at your own criminal trial. Of course, you are free to waive that right and testify, but that decision must be made voluntarily and without any coercion from the prosecution or the court.

The U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals recently addressed whether or not it is even proper for a trial judge to explicitly ask a criminal defendant on the record if they wish to testify. The defendant in this particular case, United States v. Anderson, maintained it was legal error to even ask the question. The appellate court disagreed, however, and rejected this and other grounds offered on appeal from the defendant’s convictions on white collar criminal charges.

The underlying case basically involved allegations that the defendant, who owned a shrimping business, falsely inflated his business expenses in order to obtain federal subsidies earmarked for the domestic shrimp industry. Prosecutors tried the defendant in federal court for mail fraud, making false statements to the government, and money laundering.

During the trial, the defense attempted to elicit testimony from a government agent regarding a possibly exculpatory statement made by the defendant. The trial judge excluded this statement after the prosecution objected. The judge then remarked that the defense was trying to get the exculpatory statement admitted without the defendant having to testify.

After the defense rested its case, the judge asked the defendant (outside the jury’s presence) if he understood that he had a right to testify and whether he had made an “independent decision not to testify.” The defendant replied he understood his rights and then asked to consult with his attorney before answering the second part of the question. After consulting with his lawyer, the defendant said he was “unsure” if he wanted to testify. The judge pressed for a decision, explaining the trial could not move forward otherwise. The defendant then decided to testify.

The jury subsequently convicted the defendant. On appeal the defendant raised multiple grounds for reversing his conviction, including the trial judge’s questioning regarding his right to testify. The 11th Circuit rejected all of these grounds and upheld the conviction. The appellate court said there was “nothing objectionable” about the judge’s “straightforward and neutral inquiry.” To the contrary, the judge’s questions were intended to “protect” his right to testify if he wished; the 11th Circuit did not view this is an attempt to improperly influence the defendant’s decision or “usurp” the role of his attorney in formulating a trial strategy,

Contact Orlando Criminal Defense Attorney Jose Baez Today

The right to remain silent is one of the most basic constitutional protections a criminal defendant has. It is therefore critical to work with an experienced Orlando criminal defense lawyer who can help ensure nobody improperly pressures you into testifying against yourself. Contact the Baez Law Firm today if you need representation or legal advice.

Source:

media.ca11.uscourts.gov/opinions/pub/files/201813947.pdf

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
Miami

Miami Office

1200 Brickell Avenue #1410
Miami, FL 33131
Office: 305-999-5100
Fax: 305-999-5111
Orlando

Orlando Office

23 South Osceola Avenue
Orlando, FL 32801
Office: 407-705-2626
Fax: 407-705-2625

Email Us

Fields Marked * Are required

DISCLAIMER: Completing and submitting this form or otherwise merely contacting The Baez Law Firm or any individual at the firm will not establish an attorney/client relationship. Our firm cannot represent you until we determine that there would be no conflict of interest and that we are otherwise able to accept representation of your case. Please do not send any information or documents until a formal attorney/client relationship has been established through an interview with an attorney and you have been given authorization in the form of an engagement letter with The Baez Law Firm. Any information or documents sent via this form or otherwise prior to your receipt of an engagement letter will not be treated as confidences, secrets, or protected information of any nature. Submitting information regarding your potential case will not bar The Baez Law Firm from representing or continuing to represent a person or entity whose interest are adverse to your in condition with your case.

protected by reCAPTCHA Privacy - Terms
Please review the highlighted fields. They are required.
DISCLAIMER: This website contains information about The Baez Law Firm that includes testimonial statements from persons who are familiar with the firm's services. The testimonials shown are not necessarily representative of every person's experience with us. Testimonials from every client are not provided. As no two situations or persons are identical, the facts and circumstances of your situation may differ from those for which testimonials are shown. This website also includes information about some of the past results that we have obtained for our clients. Not all results are provided, and the results shown are not necessarily representative of all results obtained by us. No two situation are exactly alike; every person's situation is unique and the outcome for each person depends on the individual facts.

The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.
MileMark Media - Practice Growth Solutions

© 2015 - 2021 Baez Law Firm. All rights reserved.
This law firm website and legal marketing are managed by MileMark Media.

Contact Form Tab Contact Form Tab