Testifying in Court
Coming to court and testifying in front of a judge or a jury is a new and stressful experience for most people. Because most people have not testified before there are certain things that witnesses should keep in mind in order to be effective. First, tell the truth! This can not be emphasized enough. As a witness you take an oath to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and that is exactly what you should do.
- Tell the truth and nothing but the truth. Even if the truth would hurt your case, you have sworn to tell the truth, tell it. Tell the story accurately and honestly, and when you don't remember the answer to a question which has been asked, say that you don't remember, don't try to make something up!
- Come to court on time. If you arrive a few minutes early you can become acquainted with the court and meet the prosecutor handling your case. If a witness shows up late it reflects poorly on the credibility of that witness. It gives the impression that the witness does not care enough about the case to arrive on time.
- Dress appropriately for court. Your appearance should be neat and clean.
- Keep your temper under control in a courtroom. You should not yell and scream in a courtroom. Often things are said in a courtroom which one party finds upsetting. Some of the attorneys questioning you may try to upset you. It is very important to keep your composure. Never argue with the attorneys or the judge. You may get mad, but yelling or screaming, or making statements out of turn, hurts your credibility and disrupts the courtroom. If an attorney or another party is saying something which is making you mad remember, you will have the chance to tell your story and explain your answers.
- Stick to the facts of your case. The judge wants to hear from you, but he or she only wants to hear the facts of the event that brought you into court. The judge does not want to hear about other events which are not related to the charges the court is currently dealing with. The judge does not want to hear what other people have told you, only what you heard and saw.
- Prepare ahead of time. Think about what happened, what did you see and what did you hear. Think about what questions you will probably be asked and whether or not you know the answer to those questions.
- Listen to the question asked. Listen very carefully to the entire question asked. Do not start to answer a question until the attorney has finished asking the question.
- Think before you answer. Don't just blurt out an answer. Think back to the day of the event you are being asked about and then answer the question truthfully. Only answer the question asked, if the answer calls for a yes or no answer with a simple yes or no.
- Answer clearly. Speak clearly and loudly so the court and attorneys may hear everything you have to say. What you have to say is important, make sure it is stated clearly.
- Tell the truth. This may have been the number one tip, but it is so important that it is listed again. You have sworn to tell the truth and that is exactly what you should say. Do not exaggerate or guess. Tell exactly what happened and how. Guessing or exaggerating will only give you less credibility.