There are several circumstanc-es when you could be called upon to testify in a court or at a deposition. For example, you are at a grocery store when you observe a shoplifter. You report the criminal activity and the individual is arrested. If the matter goes to trial, you could be asked to testify. Or, you might be a witness to, or a party in, an auto accident. Another scenario would be the necessity of testifying in a di-vorce or probate matter. Tens of thousands of deposi-tions are conducted in Califor-nia every working day. The likelihood you will have to testify some time in your life are pretty high.
Here are some tips if you are called to testify.
Take Notes Early.
If you think you witnessed something where you might have to testi-fy, immediately write down what you saw, heard or experi-enced. This way you will be able to refresh your memory when called to testify.
Tell the Truth
Always tell the truth. Lying under oath is a criminal offense. Tell the truth even if you think a lie will sound better.
Answer Only the Question
When testifying, answer only the question asked. If the questioner wants more infor-mation, they will ask additional questions.
Understand the Question.
If you don’t understand the question, let the examiner know so you can get clarifica-tion or have another question asked.
Speak Clearly and Assured-ly.
Say "Yes" or "No" when
required. Don’t say "uh huh" or "yeah". Speak clearly and sufficiently load for all to hear your response.
Be Cooperative but not Manipulated.
Give the an-swers as you understand them to be. If the lawyer tries to twist your words, reject the rephrasing and restate your position.
Never argue. You are there as a witness, not as an advocate.
When testifying, allow the question to be asked before responding. Don’t antic-ipate the question or attempt to speak over the questioner. Also, be patient with the pro-cess. Delays and inconvenienc-es will occur.
These few tips should help you if you think you may have to testify as a witness or a party in a criminal or civil action.