testifying tips in nj
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TIPS FOR TESTIFYING

How can I answer those questions with 'Yes' or 'No' answers?

That's the dilemma all individuals face when they testify during a trial or a deposition.  This guide outlines simple and precise procedures for testifying.

Know the facts, and please call Miller, Miller & Tucker,  P.A. if we can help.

A witness in a trial (or deposition) may find him or herself unfamiliar with procedures, and have fears and uncertainties about what is expected or required of witnesses.  This compilation of suggestions provides a brief explanation of what to expect on the witness stand or at deposition.

There are specific rules of evidence which lawyers must follow in Court.  At times, these rules may seem unnecessary or frustrating, but they are directed toward one goal -- determining the truth in the case.

Guidelines For Witnesses

  1. Prior to testifying, try to prepare yourself by recalling the incident or information in your mind, but do not memorize testimony.

  2. You are sworn to tell the truth.  Tell it by answering briefly and accurately about what you know.

  3. Listen carefully to the questions asked, and think before speaking.  If you do not understand the question, ask that it be repeated or explained.  Do not look for assistance from the adversary counsel, prosecutor or any other witness when you are on the stand.  If you need help, ask the Judge.

  4. Speak clearly, loudly and slowly.

  5. Answer only the question asked, directly and simply. Do not volunteer information!

  6. Do not guess or speculate.  If you do not know the answer, be sure to say so.   If you give an estimate, make sure everyone understands that you are estimating.

  7. Do not answer if there is an objection made by an attorney.

  8. Do not lose your temper.  Upon cross-examination, remain calm and composed.

  9. Always be courteous, even if the attorney questioning you appears to be discourteous.   Being polite makes a good impression in the Court and the jury.  Do not try to be "smart" or evasive.

  10. Be serious in and around the courtroom.  Avoid joking.

  11. Neat appearance and proper dress are important.

  12. If the question is about distance or time, and your answer is only an estimate, be sure to say it is only an estimate.

  13. Leave the stand knowing that you have presented the truth briefly and to the best of your ability.

On Being A Witness
No legal problem can be solved without the help of witnesses.

It is your duty as a witness to give your testimony when needed.  While it may not always be convenient for you to come to Court to testify, please keep in mind that some day you may be a victim, and your own case may depend on the willingness of a witness to come forward and tell what he or she knows.

As the case is being prepared for trial, it may be necessary for the attorney(s) who subpoenaed you to contact you.  It is important to keep them informed of your current address and telephone number.  If you move be sure to let them know.

Subpoena
A subpoena is a Court Order directing you to be present at the time and place stated.   You may receive your subpoena by mail or in person.  When you receive a subpoena to appear in Court, or at a deposition, you are required by law to attend.   Be sure to bring the subpoena to Court.  A subpoena may require you to bring documentation with you to Court or the deposition.  Do so.

Get Comfortable
Get a good night's rest prior to the date you will testify.  Dress conservatively.  Your normal business attire is probably about right.  Arrive early.  Give yourself a few minutes to experience the room in which you are about to testify.  It is going to be a new environment for you, so walk around.  Get used to the lighting, the acoustics, the distance your voice might have to travel.

Just the Facts
Leave your impressions from film, television and other folklore at home.  In the real world, the attorney seeking your testimony wants just one thing from you -- the facts.  What you saw.  What you said.  What you did.  In limited circumstances, what you heard.  Unless you are asked to do so, do not draw conclusions.  Unless you were called as an expert witness, keep your opinions for another day.

Rules To Remember
RULE 1
. If you are asked what time it is, just give the time.  Be brief and to the point.  Listen to the question, answer the question, then wait for the next one.  When you are excused, your testimony is over.  Take your time.   As with other matters of importance, there is no clock running.  Your testimony is very important; that is why you were called in the first place.  There is no hurry.

RULE 2.  If you do not understand a question, respond by saying, "I do not understand the question."  Have counsel rephrase the question, explain or define any word that you don't understand.  It's not impolite.  You just don't understand the question.  If counsel cannot rephrase the question so you can understand and adequately respond, that's not your problem.  You need not help out.

RULE 3.  If you knew the answer some time ago, but do not recall at the moment, say "I do not recall."  Not everyone can remember which shoes they wore on a certain day.  There is no disgrace in failing to recall certain details, especially when they are remote in time.  Your accurate testimony is very important; that's why you were called.

RULE 4.  If you are asked a question, and you do not know the answer, say "I do not know."  Many witnesses think they have to know, or are expected to know the answer to practically everything asked of them while on the stand.  No one can be expected to know everything.  If you seem to, your entire testimony may appear rehearsed and unconvincing.  When you don't know, you don't know, and such a reply is entirely appropriate.


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The information expressed above should not be construed as legal advice but merely information on the law that may be of interest to you.  Remember, individual legal problems require individual solutions. Please contact Miller, Miller & Tucker, P.A. if we can help.