Whether you’re the witness or a party in the case, here are some quick tips to make sure your witness testimony is worth its word count in court.
For the Witness
When writing a witness testimony, the layout is a bit different from any essay or letter you may have written before. Here is a brief outline of what you’ll need to write:
- First, write down the name of the case and the claim number.
- Below that, write down your full name and address.
- Address the letter to “Your Honor:” or “Dear Honorable Judge:”
- In your introduction, you can state some general facts about yourself like name, age, occupation.
- For your content, write down anything that could be relevant to the claim or defense. Some good things to mention are the date of the incident, your relationship to either of the parties, what you did and didn’t see, as well as other facts relevant to the case. Maintain a clear and factual tone throughout your content.
- To conclude, write down your oath (since you could not be in court to take your oath in person). Write the following: I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the State of California that the above is true and correct., and that this declaration was signed on [date] at [location]—e.g., Sacramento, California.”
- Lastly, date and sign the statement, and write down your current telephone number.
Each testimony will vary in length, format, structure, etc., so don’t preoccupy yourself with making it “look right.” As long as the information is there, your testimony will be effective. Below is just one way that you can format your testimony.
For the Plaintiff/Defendant
Before asking the witness for a witness testimony, make sure that there is not another way to bring their testimony to court. While a letter will suffice, it is much better to have your witness present and ready to answer any question. Below are some things to try:
- If they cannot attend that particular court date, ask the clerk if you can change the court date.
- Entice them with payment; the standard is $35 per day and 20 cents per mile both ways to the courthouse (from their house, workplace, etc.) but you can increase this amount if you feel it is worth it or your witness requires further “encouragement.”
- If the courthouse is too far away, ask the judge if the witness can do their testimony by phone.
- For accommodations for disabilities, ask the court’s American with Disabilities Act (ADA) coordinator at least 10 days before your court date.
- If your witness cannot speak English, bring an interpreter or ask the court for one (which they may charge you for) at least 10 days before your trial.
However, if you cannot make it work, make sure you do some things before the trial:
- If the witness does not live in California, get the witness testimony signed in front of a notary public.
- Contact us, SueYa. We offer services like finding the defendant, serving them, and collecting judgment. Click here for more information.
- Prepare your own case by going over their testimony and explaining any discrepancies between your and the witness’s story.
- Make copies of the witness testimony for yourself, the judge, and your opponents.
- Ask the witness for any evidence they may have to help corroborate your story.
For more tips on how to prepare your witness, click here.
The Help When You Need It
Any time that you need help with your small claims case, reach out to us via LiveChat, on the phone at 1-888-SUE-YA-88. Most clients successfully complete their small claims paperwork without issue.
“Ch 2 – Preparing…” MotherCopper.com – MC 103 Trial By Written Declaration – Ch 02 Preparing Trial By Written Declaration. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Jan. 2017.
“How to Prepare and Present Your Case (Small Claims).” How to Prepare and Present Your Case (Small Claims). 2017 Superior Court of San Mateo County, n.d. Web. 23 Jan. 2017.
“Plaintiffs and Defendants … Making the Best of Your Day in Court.” The Small Claims Court, A Guide to Its Practical Use – California Department of Consumer Affairs. 2016 State of California, n.d. Web. 23 Jan. 2017.
“Witness Statements.” Justice.gov.uk. Crown, 30 Oct. 2012. Web. 24 Jan. 2017.