As a witness in a criminal prosecution, you play an important role in seeing that justice is done. Because the court system is unfamiliar to many, it often creates unnecessary fear and misconceptions among those called to testify. Here are a few suggestions:
When you receive a subpoena
Please read your subpoena or notice carefully. It will tell you when and where to appear. It may also inform you of any additional items and documents you must bring.
Contact the Dakota County Attorney’s Victim/Witness Program at 651-438-4555 to let us know you have received the subpoena or notice and to make sure we have your correct home and work telephone numbers in the event of last minute scheduling changes.
Preparing for trial
Review any written or taped statements you have made regarding the incident. If you do not have a copy of your statement, one may be obtained through the Victim/Witness Program at 651-438-4555. If there are any mistakes in your statement, please call the Victim/Witness Program.
Don’t memorize what you are going to say. Instead, try to think about the things that you will be testifying to, such as the place of the incident, people or things present at the time, what happened, what was said and by whom, etc.
Contact the Trial Status Recording at 651-438-8350 on the work day before you are scheduled to appear to verify that your attendance is required. Oftentimes, cases are postponed or settled just before trial.
When you testify
Your only responsibility is to tell the facts truthfully and accurately. The judge decides what the law is and the jury decides if the accused is guilty or not guilty.
Wear neat and conservative clothing.
Listen closely to the questions you are asked. If you do not understand or hear a question, please ask to have it repeated.
If an attorney objects to a question, you should not answer until the judge tells you to or a new question is asked.
If you are asked to give a “yes” or “no” answer but feel more explanation is necessary, please tell the attorney that you would like to explain your answer.
Answer only the question asked. Do not volunteer information not asked for by the question.
When answering a question, tell the facts as you remember them. If you do not recall certain facts, do not be afraid to say so. Do not guess.