When Victims and Witnesses Testify
By: the California Office of Victim’s Services
Victims and witnesses may testify at the preliminary hearing (prelim) and/or trial.
If you testify, keep these things in mind:
When you are in court:
- Dress neatly. Do not wear shorts, tank tops or hats. Do not chew gum.
- Do not talk to jurors, the judge or the defendant.
- Be calm and polite to everyone. Do not get angry or impatient.
When you testify:
- Wait until the lawyer finishes the question before you start to answer.
- Be yourself and just say what happened. (Do not try to memorize what you are going to say.)
- Speak clearly and loudly. Always look at the person questioning you, and speak clearly enough so the jury can hear you.
- Say “Yes” or “No” out loud. A court reporter will write down everything you say. So, you must use words. It’s not enough to nod or shake your head.
- If one of the lawyers objects to a question, do not answer it until the judge says you can.
- Only answer the question they ask you. If they want more information, they will ask you more questions.
- Tell the truth and don’t exaggerate.
- If you do not understand a question, say, “I don’t understand.”
- If a lawyer asks you a question, and you cannot remember the answer, say “I don’t remember.” If you remember the answer later, tell the Deputy DA.
- If you do not know an answer, say, “I don’t know.”
- If you cannot answer truthfully with a “Yes” or “No,” ask the judge to let you explain.
- If they ask you “Have you talked to anyone about the case?” you must mention your conversations with the prosecutor, defense lawyer, their investigators and/or victim advocates.
If your friends or relatives come to court, ask them to follow these rules:
- Dress neatly. Do not wear shorts, tank tops or hats.
- Do not chew gum, smoke, or have food or drink in the courtroom.
- Do not talk when court is in session.
- Stay calm and try to avoid gestures and facial expressions.
- Follow the bailiff’s instructions about where to sit, etc.
- Never talk to the judge, jury or defendant.