It can be a daunting prospect when you have been called upon to be a witness at a trial of any kind. Whether it’s a criminal trial or a civil trial, just the thought of getting up on the stand in front of a judge, jury, two legal teams, and a courtroom full of people can send you into full panic mode. However, once you understand the trial process for witnesses, it may not be quite as frightening.
What Is Expected of You?
There are a number of ways in which it might be determined that you would make a good witness at a trial. Perhaps you were questioned by law enforcement or maybe the plaintiff or defendant called upon you to tell what you know. Knowing what is expected of you can alleviate many of your fears, so take a deep breath and think about what you know to be factual. Many of the questions you may be asked at trial will come out in a pre-trial deposition, so the first thing to tackle is understanding what to expect during a deposition. It is important to think clearly about what you say at this point because if there are any slight differences between what you say at a deposition and what you say on the stand, it could make a huge difference in the outcome at trial.
Who Are You Expected to Talk To?
Actually, either legal team can conduct a deposition but most often it is the opposing attorney who will try to find inconsistencies in what you say under oath at a deposition. This is what they will base their questions on in court, so be prepared to talk to either side and always ensure that the information you give is accurate and always the same. In short, you are expected to talk to either legal team but you have the right to have both sides present.
What Are You Expected to Say?
Here again, you are only expected to say what you know without embellishments. If you don’t know something, say so! Don’t be afraid to speak the truth because in the end, this is what is expected of you. Bear in mind that the opposing side will almost always try to trip you up to win the case, but if you stick to the facts as you know them and only say what you know to be true, it should be a relatively stress-free experience.
When all is said and done, you probably will be more than a little bit nervous. This is to be expected but once you understand the trial process and what is expected of you as a witness, it can be easier to get through than you imagine. Just remember to tell the truth and if you don’t know or can’t remember, don’t be afraid to say so. As the old saying goes, honesty is the best policy and that’s what you can hold on to throughout the entire trial process as a witness.