Legal Questions? / Legal Answers!

Witnesses, Yours, Mine & Ours

"Knowing how the witness process works may help you to help your Attorney. After all, you have at least one witness for your case. You. I cannot stress enough times, how important writing down everything about your incident is. By you and any witnesses you have."

If your charged with a crime you should know that the District Attorney has the statements of all the people involved. They could even include your family and friends. If they were there at the time of the incident and were "asked" to make out a statement, the District Attorney has them. If you plead Not Guilty, those people who filled out the statements, will also be served subpoenas' to come to court and testify against you. The court will pay them to do so with tax payers money, and the court may fine them if they fail to appear. The Police Officers involved will also be there to testify against you. Remember that Right To Remain Silent suggestion I discussed? If you used it, you probably won't be much "help" as a witness against yourself."

Knowing how the witness process works, may help you to help your attorney win your case.

You also have the same right to subpoena witnesses. The difference is, you'll have to pay your witnesses for their time, if they request it. You will also have to pay to have them served the subpoenas to testify for you. ( maybe not much? ) see "Serving a Summons"

When you go to court, you can bring in witnesses to testify for you but they must have personal knowledge of your charge(s). Personal knowledge does not mean "I heard that it happened." Your witness must have seen and heard what happened. If they saw anything to do with your case, and they are a "friendly" witness, I hope you had them write everything they saw or heard down before getting to this point. see Ideas, Advice, PTL & VLP

You may get an unfriendly witness. A friend or family member who doesn't want to get "involved." Someone who saw your car accident but wants to drive off. ( get a plate #)
If you need a witness to testify, but they refuse to do so due to work, time involved, or for whatever reason. If you need them, you can have them served and Ordered to appear. see Serving A Summons If they fail to respond to your summons and refuse to show up, your witness may be arrested for failure to respond to a subpoena.

"If you have a very important witness that you really need in court to prove your case, and that witnesses was subpoenaed but failed to show, you should ask the Judge for a continuance on your case. This would allow you to do your "fight" on another date, giving you a chance to get that witness into court. The Judge might ask you the relevance of your witness to your case. Explain the nature of their testimony and what it may mean to your case. The judge may grant your request and even help you to "Order" your witness to appear. "

You May Also Subpoena An Expert Witness.

An Expert Witness does not have to have personal knowledge of your situation and is the only exception to that rule. For example, if the charge has anything to do with your vehicle, ( failure to stop maybe due to faulty breaks,) a mechanic could testify that your vehicle was at a point where more time was needed to stop, due to worn break pads. Probably not the best example I could give. Guess I could have gone for the C.S.I. Specialist who didn't "see" the murder, but knows how it happened. but I am sure you get the idea. The expert witness doesn't have to see what happened. They can testify to why it may have happened, or how, in their expert opinion, it could have happened. The Expert Witness is also entitled to compensation for their time, which is paid by you.

If you have more than one witness, the District Attorney probably will request to the Judge that there be an "Exclusion Of The Witnesses." This means that the court may order witnesses excluded from the courtroom so that they cannot hear the testimony of other witnesses. That of course, is so the District Attorney can ask the same questions and hopefully get different answers. Your witnesses need to be on the same page because it only takes one discrepancy to discredit the witness testimony.

"Personally, whenever I represented myself, I offered only a couple of witnesses to testify, even if there were more. I felt that too many witnesses could be "led" to different versions of the facts by the very knowledgeable District Attorney."

After your witness has testified for you, the District Attorney gets their chance to ask your witness questions. Cross-examination should be limited to the incident in question and matters affecting the credibility of the witness.If the District Attorney gets your witness to say something that you feel needs more clarification to be understood, as far as your charge is concerned, you will have a chance to re-question your witness.

Once your witness has finished testifying, you can excuse the witness, which means they can leave and are no longer needed or you can ask the Judge to ask the witness to make themselves available in case they need to be brought back to the stand.

Before testifying, every witness is required to declare that they will testify truthfully, by oath. I am sure you all have heard the made for TV version of "Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you God?" statement. If it is found that any witness has lied during testimony, they could be charged with purger by the District Attorney . You do Not want to be charged with that. see: "The Power Of The Judge"

My Final Thought...

"If I could give you one bit of advice in reference to your Attorney it would have to be: Always Tell Them The Truth! There is nothing worse than being blind sided in a courtroom. When you have spent time prepared to defend your case, and you find during their witness testimony, your client "forgot to mention that. Before I helped anyone, I made it clear that no matter how embarrassing it may be, no matter how much they didn't want anyone to know, I needed the truth in order to help fight their case. Your Attorney is under Client / Attorney Confidentially rules. He / She cannot hold the truth against you, and must put forth every effort to defend you. No matter what the charge is. They have to remain unbiased towards your case.... no matter what they know about it. Remember, You NEED to inform your Attorney of any discrepancies in any statement you might have made to the Police."