Criminal Trial Witnesses: What You Need To Know

Criminal Trial Witnesses: What You Need To Know2019-01-20T14:51:16+00:00
witness; criminal; trial; court; things to know


What To Expect If Called As A Criminal Trial Witness

You may be called upon to testify in a trial if you witnessed or have information about a crime. Either the Crown prosecutor or Defence counsel can call you to testify at a trial by issuing a Subpoena or a Notice to Attend Court. A subpoena is a court order. It is issued by a judge that requires you to attend court on the day noted in the subpoena. If you do not attend court to testify, the judge can choose to issue a warrant for your arrest. Issued witness warrants, mean you could be detained until the trial is complete. If you are concerned about what you say and how it could impact you as a criminal trial witnesses, you can set up a consultation with the criminal law team at Kahane Law Office in Calgary, Alberta.

Criminal Trial Witness Subpoena Orders

Please follow the instructions given to you in the subpoena order. The subpoena will have the date, courtroom, and start time of the proceedings.  Please ensure that if you were required to bring additional documents such as any video, pictures, or other materials that are relevant to the trial. You must have all these available the day of trial. When you arrive, check in with the either the court administration office or you can also check in with the court clerk in the courtroom that is listed on the subpoena order. The court clerk sits below the judge wears a black gown. Once you have checked in with the court clerk, advise the lawyer that contacted you that you are present.

What To Expect At The Criminal Trial

You may be required to remain outside the courtroom during the other witnesses’ testimony. When you are waiting to testify, do not discuss your testimony with anyone except the lawyer who contacted you. When it is your turn to testify, you will be given an option to either swear on the bible or affirm that you promise to tell the truth. After you swear or affirm, you are under oath and you must tell the truth as you know it.

If you cannot answer a question, do not try to make something up. Simply tell the Court that you do not know. If you lie or mislead the court while under oath, you are committing what is known as perjury. Perjury is an indictable offence. Any question that arises that you feel uncomfortable about or you feel is not relevant, you may ask the Judge about the question and if you have to answer it or not.

If the Judge directs that you must answer the question, you must then answer it. If it is a question you feel will incriminate you and will result in charges against yourself, advise the court that you request the protection of the Canada Evidence Act or Alberta Evidence Act so that the answer to the question cannot be used against you in a court of law. Once you have given your testimony, you can speak to the lawyer who contacted you and request to leave if you do not wish to remain for the entire trial.

Compensation For Time Being A Witness

A criminal trial witnesses usually has given a prior statement to the police at the scene of the crime. The police will take down your personal information. They do this in order to follow up with you to be a criminal trial witnesses should a trial commence. There is usually no compensation to be a witness in a trial. However, you may submit your receipts to the Crown prosecutor for consideration of compensation if you were required to get a hotel or travel a long distance in order to attend trial. If you are a witness for the defence, there is no compensation offered through Alberta Justice. Talk to the defence lawyer to work out compensation for any expenses that arise.

Taking Time Off Work To Be A Criminal Trial Witness

If you need to take the day off from work, your employer is required to allow you time off to testify. If your employer does not, they could face serious criminal charges themselves for obstructing justice. Please give your employer ample notice to avoid any complications.

What To Do If You Cannot Attend on Date In Subpoena

If you cannot attend court the day the trial is set for, contact the Crown prosecutor’s office as soon as possible. If you cannot get through to anyone at the Crown prosecutor’s office, you will need to contact the RCMP or local police in the jurisdiction you are required to attend court.

Courtroom Etiquette

All Courtroom etiquette is the same no matter what type of law it involves. Dress appropriately for court. There is not a specific dress code, however, hats are not allowed in the court rooms. Clean, non-wrinkled, non-tron clothing is a must. You are going for “Sunday best” type clothing. The court knows that no everyone has a suit but you want to dress and look respectable and respectful.  Turn off all your electronic devices so they do not interrupt the proceedings. Food and drinks are also not allowed inside the court rooms.

Criminal Trial Witnesses And Their Testimony

Your testimony is your version of the events only. Do not let anyone influence or threaten you in any way regarding your testimony as a criminal trial witnesses. This is known as Obstructing Justice. Doing this is a very serious offence that carries a maximum jail sentence of 10 years.  If you have been threatened or if someone is trying to influence what you will say, contact the police or Crown prosecutor as soon as possible.

Need More Information On Criminal Trial Witnesses

The criminal law team at Kahane Law Office is happy to set up consultations for people called to be a criminal trial witness. People are often concerned about how and if being a witness can impact them. A lot of the things that people “know” about being a witness is based on US televisions shows and is just not accurate in Alberta.We can at 403-225-8810, or email us directly here.

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