Witness Tips

You may be called to be a witness in a trial or a hearing. As you prepare please think about the following:

  • Always tell the truth. Tell the truth and accurately in all matters. If you don’t know or can’t remember, saying so is much better than trying to remember something.
  • Dress appropriately for Court. Clothing should not distract the jurors or the Judge. You want the jury to remember your testimony – not what you are wearing. Please ask the Victim Advocate if you have questions. Questions should be answered with a “Yes, sir” or “No, sir” and always address the Judge as “Your Honor.”
  • Pay attention to the questions and ask for clarification if you do not understand.
  • Speak loudly and clearly. Everything must be recorded so all answers must be verbalized. No gum.
  • Only answer the question asked. Neither the Judge nor lawyers can help you answer questions.
  • Always be serious in the Courtroom or anywhere surrounding it during trial.
  • Don’t allow yourself to get upset.
  • Be wary of questions involving distance and time. If you estimate, make sure that you let everyone know you are estimating. Watch out for questions asking if you are willing to swear to your version of the events. You are a witness and have been sworn to tell the truth when taking the stand. Preparation before trial is expected in each case. If asked if you spoke with the Prosecutor about your testimony, admit that you met and spoke about the case and he told you to tell the truth. You can only tell the truth based upon what you saw and heard. You have no way of knowing what another person observed. Watch out for the question, "Why are you here today?" You are here because you were served with a subpoena issued by the Court.
  • Avoid saying, "I think, I believe, In my opinion." A witness testifies to facts, not beliefs, or opinions. Do not say, "That's all that happened." Cover yourself, and say, "That's all I recall." Later in your testimony, you may remember more details.
  • Do not use "legalese" or police "lingo."

The most effective witness is one who can tell their story comfortably. Just tell the truth and be yourself. Everything else will take care of itself.