Unlike defendants and complainants, there are no set rules for being a witness in court. Moreover, the fact that most people have never testified in court or don’t have access to credible witness preparation tips makes it difficult to know the way forward when called upon. Accordingly, we’ve compiled the following list of the Do’s and Dont’s for court witnesses to help you out:
Things to Do As A Witness
Be Open With Your Attorney
You are advised to be open and honest at all times. If you know the real story, however scandalous it is, the attorney will know the strategies to employ in the case.
Honor Your Subpoena
When you get a subpoena, you should not ignore it as they are enforceable documents. Further, honoring all your subpoenas will make things easier for you during the underlying case, and even beyond it.
Be Honest and Concise in Your Testimony
When giving your testimony, answer all the questions in a clear and concise manner, and make sure to tell the truth. Lying will only make things more complicated for you.
Courtrooms are formal places, and the outfit you wear as you take the stand should reflect that. Ideally, choose a formal outfit such as a well-pressed, suit and formal shoes, and avoid overdoing your hair and/or makeup. Also, go for dull colors as they fit the courtroom more than loud or bright colors.
Listen to Your Attorney
Your attorney knows all the things to do or say when doing a disposition, or giving testimony in court. So, before you take the stand, talk with them and ask all questions in regards to the whole process. Inform them of your fears and concerns and ask them for expert tips.
Things Not to Do
Don’t Over-Answer Questions
When asked a question, give a clear and concise answer without going into much detail or explanations, unless prompted. This will save you from making contradicting statements.
Don’t Try to Be Cute or Funny
Being a witness in court is very much different from being a guest at the Ellen Show. While giving your testimony, try to be serious. Avoid the temptation to be sarcastic or flippant, as some judges may not take it kindly. Also remember that anything you say in court, including jokes, will be recorded, and taken literally – so only say things you mean.
Don’t Space Out
Being a witness requires maximum focus and concentration to the questions asked. Avoid getting distracted or daydreaming, as it could result in (costly) mistakes.
Don’t Answer A Question You Didn’t Comprehend
If you didn’t hear or understand a question, request to have it asked again to avoid giving wrong answers that may cost you.
Don’t Be Drunk!
Really, this one is self-explanatory. Apart from alcohol and drugs making you look like a fool when answering questions, they may also make you drowsy and incoherent. In some cases, you may be held in contempt of court if you’re too intoxicated.