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San Francisco DUI Attorney: Raj Rajaratnam Takes The Fifth, And For Good Reason

Posted on in DUI

Raj Rajaratnam Takes The Fifth, And For Good Reason

Raj Rajaratnam took the Fifth and declined to testify in his own defense against charges of insider trading. Facing decades in prison if found guilty, you might think the guy would take a shot at trying to personally tell his side of the story.

Barry Bonds did the same thing - remaining silent in his trial on perjury and obstruction of justice charges.

There are very good reasons for why both of these men exercised the constitutional right to remain silent, and not just because they have the right. As a San Francisco Drunk Driving / DUI Lawyer when I take drunk driving cases to trial I rarely have my client testify. Some of the reasons are these:

  • Defendants are not normally professional witnesses. Unlike police officers and experts who have testified in court countless times, they have generally never experienced the rigor of cross-examination in a trial setting. They are not comfortable looking at the jurors when they testify, whereas professional witnesses will look and talk to them in a conversational tone.
  • Defendants can accidentally say something that hurts their case. Suppose the defendant gets on the stand. Anxious to prove her innocence, she blurts out in the heat of cross-examination, “I’ve never been good with those kind of balancing tests." The prosecutor then brings to light the fact that she has been previously asked to perform such tests on the side of the road, or that she regularly does yoga and was a high school gymnast.
  • Defendants may limit their available defenses by testifying. Suppose the evidence in a DUI trial is unclear about whether the defendant actually drove, but he would like to testify to establish what he drank and when. By testifying, he will not only be asked questions about what he drank and when, but he will also be asked how he got to where he was found. By testifying, a defendant may foreclose certain defenses that rely upon an absence of evidence.
  • A weak or borderline case can be lost when a testifying defendant fails to demonstrate his innocence. How does a DUI defendant prove he was not too impaired from alcohol to safely operate a motor vehicle? How does he prove that his blood alcohol level was below.08 percent at the time of driving? He cannot prove these things by testifying, but by taking the witness stand he creates an expectation with a jury that he should persuade them of these things or be found guilty.

Similarly, Raj Rajaratnam and Barry Bonds could not prove their innocence by testifying, and both men would likely have been crushed if they had taken the witness stand. Bonds avoided a conviction on three of four counts. Rajaratnam is unlikely to fair as well, but not because he chose to remain silent at his trial.

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