If you have been asked to testify in court, you may be feeling anxious or nervous. You may be worried that you will say the wrong thing, or you may not know what the proper etiquette is when giving testimony. To ease your mind, our Anoka divorce lawyers have compiled a guide with suggestions on what to say and do if you’re testifying in court.
Do Tell the Truth
The first and most important thing is to tell the truth. Remember, you will be testifying under oath. Lying under oath is committing perjury, which is a serious crime.
Also, keep in mind that there is a difference between saying “I don’t know” and “I don’t remember”. The latter insinuates that you once knew the answer, but can no longer recall the information. The former insinuates that you never knew the answer.
Do Dress Neatly
It’s important to dress appropriately when testifying in court. Dressing neatly conveys your respect for the court and gives a good first impression.
Do Conduct Yourself in a Professional Manner
Behave in a professional manner when testifying. Trials are serious matters. Use appropriate language and be professional in your mannerisms and body language.
Do Prepare for the Trial
You should be notified days or weeks in advance that you will be testifying. Take this time to prepare yourself for the trial. Go over the incident in your mind and recall the details, so you can answer confidently when in court. Write down what you remember or review documents or photos to refresh your memory. If you were deposed, review the deposition transcript.
Also, be prepared to be questioned by several people. Both sides will have a chance to ask questions of every witness.
Don’t Start Answering Before the Question is Finished
Always wait until the question is finished before giving an answer. You cannot provide a truthful answer if you do not know what you’re being asked. Jumping the gun and giving an answer to a question you think is being asked will make it difficult to convey the truth.
That being said, it’s also important to only provide the answer to the question. There is no need to volunteer additional information. Answer questions to the point. If you need to explain your answer, explain it. If the question warrants a simple “yes/no” answer, then answer with “yes” or “no”. If you cannot answer the question because it is confusing or asks for more than one answer, ask that the question be re-phrased. Do not talk while anyone else is talking. The court reporter can only record one speaker at a time. Respond out loud – gestures and nods cannot be recorded.
Don’t Lose Your Temper
Stay calm and in control of your emotions. Do not lose your temper while testifying. Always be courteous. Some questions may upset you. The way in which the questions are asked may upset you. However, it is important to keep calm and behave in an appropriate manner.
Don’t Speak If an Objection Is Raised
If an objection is raised, stop speaking immediately. The judge will rule whether or not the objection is overruled, and then you will be given instructions as to whether or not to continue.