Testifying in Court as a Prosecution Witness
The criminal justice system could not work without your help as a witness. Information provided by victims and witnesses aids in the identification and arrest of suspects. Your testimony is important for successful prosecution. Please keep the Victim-Witness Coordinator advised of your current mailing address and telephone contact numbers.
Before the Trial
Before the trial, you will have a chance to discuss the case and your testimony with the Deputy Prosecutor handling the trial. You may also be contacted by the defense attorney or an investigator working for the defense attorney. The defense attorney and the defense investigator have the right to contact and interview witnesses. You have the right to request that a Deputy Prosecutor and/or a victim advocate attend the defense interview. Please contact the Victim-Witness Coordinator or the Deputy Prosecutor handling the case if you have questions.
A trial may last several days. The Victim-Witness Coordinator will keep you advised of the expected day and time of your testimony. If you are testifying in Superior Court, please check-in at the Prosecuting Attorney's Office when you arrive at the Courthouse. You may have to wait for your time to testify. The Prosecuting Attorney has a waiting area available for you.
When it is time for your testimony, you will be escorted to the Court where you will sign in at the Clerk's office and enter the Courtroom. The Deputy Prosecutor will call your name as the next witness and 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. Questioning may go back and forth between the attorneys. 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.
- Please speak clearly and loudly so that the jury and/or Judge can hear you. If there is a jury, speak to the jury when you testify. If there is no jury, speak to the Judge.
- 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.
Cross-examination is conducted by the defense attorney. 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.
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 criminal justice system!
The Douglas County Prosecuting Attorney's Office understands the trauma and confusion of being a victim or witness to a crime. Please call the office at 745-8535, Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5 pm if you have any questions regarding your expected testimony.