I have been subpoenaed to testify. What can I expect?

Being a witness may not be convenient for you. Bringing a case to trial takes time. To protect every person's basic rights under the law, the criminal justice system has many steps. Your patience and cooperation make the system work.

Suggestions for Testifying

  • Always tell the truth. This is the single most important item of advice. If you don't remember, it's okay to say so.
  • Dress neatly. You want to be sure your appearance and manner does not distract the jury or judge, or make your testimony seem less valid.
  • Be prepared. Think about the answers you will give to the questions you probably will be asked.
  • Stick to the facts. The judge wants to hear only the facts as you know them to be, not what someone else told you.
  • Relax and speak clearly. You have nothing to fear when giving true statements. Speak loudly enough that the entire jury and court reporter can hear what you say.
  • One of the basic rules in a criminal case is that both sides have the chance to question the witness. Questions asked by both sides have the same goal - to find out what is true.
  • Don't let the defense lawyer upset you. It may seem at times that s/he is trying to pin you down, but s/he has the right to test how many facts you know and remember. Your testimony will be much more valuable if you remain calm.
  • Listen to the entire question before you answer. If you don't understand a question, ask that it be explained.

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