If you're the victim of a crime, and you've been called to testify in court, you need to prepare for the experience. The last thing you want to do is walk in unprepared. The courtroom will be filled with people who will be listening to what you have to say. It's important that your answers come across as clear and concise. It's also important that you don't let the defense attorney, or defendant, cause you undue stress. To help you through this difficult process, here are four tips you should follow when you're called to testify.
Bring Your Advocate with You
Before you head to court, the district attorney may assign a victims advocate to you. Your advocate is there to help you through the entire court process. When it's your turn to testify, be sure to bring your advocate with you. You might not be allowed to bring your family into the courtroom during your testimony, but you will be allowed to have your advocate with you. Use them as a support during your testimony. If you feel yourself about to breakdown, focus on your advocate for a brief moment. The eye contact with your advocate will give you the opportunity to regroup and regain your composure.
Take a Brief Pause to Collect Your Thoughts
When the defense attorney asks you a question, they're going to want you to answer as quickly as possible. They'll be hoping that you'll stumble on an answer. To avoid problems, listen to the question, take a brief pause to collect your thoughts, and to make sure you understand the question. Once you're sure you understand the question, go ahead and answer it.
Don't Give Them More to Work With
In addition to hoping that you'll answer the questions quickly, the defense attorney is also going to be hoping that you expand on your answer. In other words, they want you to give them more information that they can use for further questions. Don't give them that opportunity. Respond to the questions in short, concise answers. The more concise your answers are, the less the defense will have to work with.
Ask for Clarification if You Need it
While you're on the witness stand, you may be asked questions that you just don't understand. If you do, don't answer them. Instead, ask for a clarification. Don't answer the question until you're sure that you understand it completely. If you don't know the answer to a question, don't be afraid to say that.
Being a witness in a criminal case can be extremely stressful, especially when you're the victim. Use the tips provided here to help you prepare for your time on the witness stand. You should also follow any witness preparation instructions that the district attorney provides you with, as well.