IN ADULT CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS, any defendant who wishes to testify' faces certain risks when he steps into the witness box. The risks such a defendant engenders certainly include the possibility of having his prior criminal convictions brought up by the prosecution, for purposes of impeaching his testimony. In essence, the defendant who takes the stand, like any other witness, places his reputation for truth and veracity into issue. The theory behind this general rule emanates from the belief that the defendant's testimony can be no more credible than the defendant himself. Therefore, the prosecution is given the right, under certain limitations, to attack the credibility of the defendant and his testimony by inquiring into his past criminal "conduct."
Herbert, David L. and Sinclair, V. Lee Jr.
"Adversary Juvenile Delinquency Proceedings: Impeachment of Juvenile Defendants by the Use of Previous Adjudications of Delinquency,"
Akron Law Review: Vol. 8
, Article 5.
Available at: http://ideaexchange.uakron.edu/akronlawreview/vol8/iss3/5