The Worst Things You Can Do During a Criminal Defense Trial

criminal-trial-processFacing a criminal defense trial can be terrifying and many defendants find themselves making mistakes along the way. Unfortunately, even small mistakes can sway a jury and they can be the difference between an acquittal and a conviction. Criminal defense attorney Robert M. Phillips wants readers to know some of the worst things you can do during a criminal defense trial.

Representing Yourself

Some defendants are so confident in their innocence that they choose to go to trial without representation. Although judges are reluctant to allow defendants to do so, they will generally allow it if the defendant insists. Criminal defense lawyers spend years learning how the courts work and they know how to put forth a compelling case that can lead to acquittals and dismissals. Logic and reasoning aren’t always enough and defendants need to have an attorney who knows how to appeal to jurors.

Poor Courtroom Behavior

Jurors look for small cues and often read too much into them. If you look bored during trial, jurors may think that you’re indifferent to the outcome. Likewise, laughing with your counsel, while generally innocent, may cause some jurors to think that you aren’t taking the case seriously. These small cues can have a big effect on jurors, so speak with your lawyer and determine how you should behave in court.

Taking the Stand

In some cases, defendants are best served by going under oath and testifying. In most trials, however, defense attorneys recommend against doing so. While taking the stand can improve how jurors view you, it also allows prosecutors to ask you almost anything and skilled prosecutors are known for making defendants look bad. Again, logic and reason often aren’t enough to prevail, and avoiding taking the stand can help you control your case.

Dressing Incorrectly

Even the way you dress can have an impact on the jurors. Male defendants will want to wear nice clothing, but they’ll want to avoid clothing that looks too expensive. Female defendants have an even bigger challenge as jurors will read much into how they dress. Generally, neutral and boring clothing is best, but take some time to speak with your lawyers.

Mistakes Made in Jail

Too often, defendants think that what they say in jail won’t come back to haunt them. Jail phone calls can be recorded, so be especially careful when making calls. Likewise, fellow inmates can be called to testify during trial, so it’s generally best to remain quiet while in prison. Don’t say anything to an inmate that you wouldn’t want the jury to hear.

Avoiding Pleas

The United States legal system is often criticized for its plea bargaining system. However, many plea deals require only small sacrifices on behalf of defendants. While pleading “no contest” when you’re innocent can be difficult, it can often spare you jail time and a criminal record. Take pleas seriously before refusing them. Experienced lawyers can often argue for better pleas.

Going to trial can be exceptionally challenging, but it is important to stay focused and avoid making mistakes in court. Speak with your lawyer if you have any questions and think carefully before doing anything while at trial or where others can see or hear you. Even seemingly innocent mistakes can be enough to sway a jury.

Robert M. Phillips is an experienced criminal defense attorney in Central Texas. For more information, visit

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