For most people, going to court is not an everyday event and getting up in front of a courtroom full of strangers can be intimidating and scary.
If you ever find yourself called as a witness, the Ohio office of Administrative hearings offers the following tips to help you through the process:
- Tell the Truth – This is very important. Do not try to color, shade or change your testimony to help one side or the other.
- Answer Questions Directly – Normally you will be asked questions and must limit your answers to the questions that are asked. Listen carefully to the question. If you can answer “yes” or “no,” do so. Do not try to guess why a question was asked, and do not volunteer information that does not relate to the question.
- Speak Clearly – The hearing will be recorded by digital recorder or a court reporter. It is important that you speak clearly so that every person in the courtroom can hear you and that your statements are accurately recorded.
- Stop If You Hear “Objection!” – If there is an objection to a question asked or to your answer, stop speaking. The judge will either “sustain” the objection or “overrule” the objection. If the objection is “overruled,” you may answer the question. The judge will direct you.
- Stay Calm – If you lose your temper, the cross-examiner may be able to discredit you, and your testimony may be of less help.
- If You Don’t Know, Say So – If you don’t know an answer or can’t recall, just say so. No witness knows all the facts. Be honest.
- Don’t Be Afraid of the Attorneys – Attorneys must treat you courteously and with respect. If they do not, the judge will remind them. Listen to the question and give an honest response. If you don’t understand the question, do not try to answer it.
- Stick to the Facts – You will only be allowed to testify about the things that you know personally. What you KNOW is important; what you THINK is not relevant.
It is natural to be nervous. Remember that there are rules in place to protect you and being a witness is a valuable part of the court process. Take a deep breath and take as much time as you need.