If you have a court case coming up, chances are your stress levels are high. One of the most intimidating parts of going to court is taking the stand. There’s a lot to think about—how to present yourself, what to say, making sure you don’t say too much—it can become an overwhelming process. With the eminent scrutiny of testifying on your mind, here are a few tips for testifying in court to help you perform the best way possible.
1. Clothing is Important
No matter who you are, you’re going to want to dress in your best clothing. Come to court well-groomed and conservatively dressed—formal job interview garments are a safe choice when attending court. Your goal is to make a good first impression; you want to positively impact the jury’s thoughts of you. You want people to focus on what you’re saying and not on what you’re wearing.
2. Act Respectfully
A court ruling is not the time for you to promote your independence. You should avoid speaking out of turn, laughing, or using slang terms. Testifying at court means that seriousness is of utmost importance. Unless you’re talking to your Clackamas County criminal defense lawyer, refrain from speaking about the case unless someone directly asks you while on the stand.
3. Refresh Your Memory
Before you testify, do your best to recall all the details from the incident. Try to picture the scene, the different objects present, the conversations had—everything. The more detail you know, the better. However, you also need to make sure that you confirm your story about what happened. This way when either side asks you questions—and they won’t be easy—you can draw upon the things you’ve determined you remember.
4. Speak Slowly and Truthfully
Make sure to present your testimony slowly, clearly, and loud enough so everyone in the room can clearly hear you. Some courtrooms have microphones to help with volume, but even then, you’ll still need to speak up. It’s also important to note that when a lawyer is asking you questions, he/she may try to rile you up. Even if you’re upset, continue to respond as though you are talking directly to the judge or jury.
5. Answer Questions Only
It’s the opposing councils’ job to try and get you to provide them with more information than necessary. This is why it is important to only answer the questions that are asked. Refrain from over-explaining—lawyers will try to exploit these extra details you’ve shared. Remember to only answer the questions directly asked to you, and keep your responses concise to prevent the opposing council from getting more information than they need.
6. Avoid Absolutes
It’s extremely rare that someone would remember every little detail about an incident; that’s why it’s crucial you avoid talking in absolutes. For example, the phrase “that is everything that happened,” can actually bring harm to your case. Memory can be a tricky thing, and what you remember may be different from what someone else remembers. Circumstances may change, and when you use absolutes you don’t leave any room for mistakes.
7. Stay Calm
When it comes to testifying, the most important thing you can do is stay calm—do not lose your temper. Emotion is good, but too much of it can inhibit your case. Remember, “Oregon only incarcerates approximately 25% of its convicted felons, ranking it 39th lowest amongst the 50 states.” Almost every person who testifies is nervous—breathe slowly and keep in mind that a calm and courteous testimony is your best bet.