Information for Witnesses
The criminal system could not work without the help of witnesses. Information provided by victims and witnesses aids in the identification and arrest of the suspect. The testimony of witnesses is important for successful prosecution.
After a trial is scheduled, a Deputy Prosecuting Attorney will contact you to go over your testimony. Be sure to keep the Victim-Witness Unit advised of your current address and telephone by calling the office at 745-8535.
Before the Trial
Before the trial, you will have a chance to discuss the case with the Deputy Prosecutor, who will assist you in preparing for your court appearance. You may also be contacted by the defense attorney. The defense attorney has a right to talk to and interview witnesses. You have the right to request that a Deputy Prosecutor and/or a victim advocate attend the defense attorney interview. Please contact the Deputy Prosecutor or the Victim-Witness Unit handling the case if you have questions.
You will be paid the witness fee and mileage set by law. You cannot be reimbursed for lost wages.
A subpoena is a court order requiring you to be present at the time, place and date stated. Failure to appear will make it impossible for the Prosecuting Attorney's office to effectively prosecute the case and could result in the Judge finding you in contempt of court. Your employer must honor the subpoena and allow you to attend court.
Call the Victim-Witness Unit the day before the hearing or trial to learn if you will still be needed as a witness and to get the best estimate of the time you will testify.
- When your name is called, you will be asked to step forward, take an oath, and be seated at the witness stand.
- The Deputy Prosecutor will ask you questions first. After the Deputy Prosecutor's questions, the defense attorney will ask you questions. You should remain seated until you are excused by the Judge.
- Listen carefully to each question asked. If you don't understand a question, ask the attorney to repeat it or to clarify it for you. Answer only the question asked and do not volunteer information you believe is important or helpful. If you believe you have information that should be given to the court, make sure the Deputy Prosecutor knows about the information before you testify.
- If either attorney objects to a question, do not answer until the Judge has ruled on the objection. If the Judge allows you to answer, you can ask that the question be repeated.
- When you testify, tell exactly what you know. Do not guess. If you testify to statements that you know are true, you have no fear of being embarrassed. Deliberately providing false information during testimony is a criminal offense.
- Questions involving distance and time are among the most difficult questions you will be asked. If you do make an estimate, be sure everyone knows you are just estimating.
There's nothing to worry about as long as you truthfully answer the questions. Answer the questions asked as accurately and courteously as possible. Remember, the purpose of cross-examination by the defense attorney is to test your perception, recollection, and credibility. Don't let yourself get upset with the defense attorney who is asking the questions! Becoming upset or acting discourteously can lead to your testimony being considered less believable.
Those of you who have been victims of a crime or have had court cases know how important it is to have witnesses take the time and make the effort to testify. The criminal justice system is far from perfect. It works best however when witnesses on both sides of the case are willing and prepared to testify honestly to the facts surrounding the incident. Thank you for assisting our service to the justice system!
- Steven M. Clem, Prosecuting Attorney
- Jenny Schlaman, Victim-Witness Coordinator
The Douglas County Prosecuting Attorney's Office understands the trauma and confusion of being a victim or witness to a crime. We will help you with any questions or problems connected with the case. Please call the office at 745-8535, Monday through Friday, from 8 am to 5 pm to speak with us.