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Being a Witness

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A witness is a person who can give a firsthand account of something he has seen, heard or experienced. Anyone can be called as a witness. Witnesses testify in open court, under oath. The attorney for each party has the opportunity to question or examine the witness. Judges can also ask witnesses questions, although it is rarely done in state courts. Jurors may not question witnesses.

Sidebar: Even a child may testify if she can prove to the court she understands the difference between the truth and lie.

TIP: Witnesses do not attend the trial until after they have testified.

My friend is in the middle of a trial and wants me to testify on her behalf. Do I have to go?

No. You can only be compelled to testify at trial if you have served with a subpoena ordering your presence.

TIP: A subpoena is an official order to attend court at a stated time. The subpoena is a legal document typically given to you by a sheriff's deputy with a witness fee attached.