Crime Victims as Witnesses

Testifying in court may be a new experience for you that is both stressful and inconvenient, but our system of criminal justice depends on you. Your patience and cooperation make the system work.

Suggestions for your day in court

TELL THE TRUTH. The single most important advice we can give is: Tell the truth.

DRESS NEATLY. It is important that you look appropriate in court.

BE PREPARED. Think about the questions you will probably be asked and the answers you will give to them.

STICK TO THE FACTS. The judge or Jury wants to hear only the facts as you know them to be, not what someone else has told you.

RELAX, SPEAK CLEARLY. You have nothing to fear when giving truthful answers. When you are asked questions give the Judge or ]ury your answer as clearly as possible.

Principles to keep in mind while testifying

  • One of the basic rules in a criminal or juvenile case is that both sides have the right to question the witness. Questions asked by both sides have the same goal—to find out what is true. It is the responsibility of each lawyer to bring out the truth by asking questions.
  • The Prosecutor will guide you through your testimony by the questions he or she asks. The Prosecutor's questions usually call for narrative answers allowing you to tell about the event in a "when, where, who, what, how" manner.
  • On cross examination, don't let the defense lawyer upset you. It may seem at times that he is trying to  pin you down, but the defense lawyer has the right to test how many of the facts you know and remember. Don't argue with the defense lawyer, just remember to relax and tell the truth.
  • Answer all questions to the point. If you can answer a question with a simple yes or no, do so. Answer only the questions asked. Do not volunteer additional information.
  • If you don't understand or didn't hear the question, ask that it be explained or repeated.
  • If either lawyer raises an objection, stop speaking at once. After the Judge has ruled, you may be asked to continue.