What Do I Need to Know to Be an Effective Witness?

  • By:David Bate

Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you are going to be called as a witness in a case, it’s often important to you that the finder of fact, whether it be a judge or a jury, understand the story that you are there to tell. Testifying poorly can get in the way of the listener understanding your point of view and the facts that you are there to share with them. Here are some tips about how to be an effective witness:

1.     Tell the truth, no matter how bad it sounds.

When a witness voluntarily admits to a fact that makes them sound bad, it can actually be helpful because the listener tends to find the witness to be more credible. Telling the truth is the most important thing you can do as a witness.

2.     Don’t qualify your answers.

If you are asked a question that can fairly be answered yes or no, simply truthfully answer “yes” or “no.” Don’t qualify your answers with “yes, but…” or “no, and…”. State the simple truth, and you will gain a great deal of credibility with the listener.

3.     Don’t fight with the lawyer.

When the lawyer from the “other side” is questioning you, it is important that you don’t engage in arguing with the lawyer. Lawyers are trained to argue. You won’t win. You want to always answer politely and respectfully, even if the lawyer is not giving you that in return. The more polite and respectful you are in the face of a lawyer who is being a jerk, the more the listener will find you to be the credible party.

4.     Only answer the question you are asked.

While you are there to tell your part in whatever story is being presented to the judge or jury, it is important that you let the lawyers control how the story is being told. Don’t volunteer information about a question that hasn’t been asked, just because you think it is important.

5.     Maintain good body language.

Make sure that no matter which side is questioning you, you maintain good body language. Very often, when an opposing party’s lawyer stands up to begin cross-examination, a witness will change their body language by crossing their legs or arms. This more aggressive or protective posture tends to erode the witness’s credibility with the listener.

6.     Stop talking if there is an objection.

During your testimony, the lawyers from either side may object. If this happens, you should stop talking until the judge rules. You will then be instructed whether or not to answer the question that has been posed, depending on how the judge has ruled. Don’t continue talking when an object has been made.

If you are being called as a witness in a criminal or civil case, you should consult with an experienced attorney to determine if you require representation at the hearing. Contact an experienced criminal defense lawyers Grand Rapids, MI offers today.


Thanks to Blanchard Law for their insight into criminal defense and how to be an effective witness.

Posted in: Uncategorized