How do I Prepare to be a Defense Witness?

Felicia Dye

If you are going to be a defense witness, it is important to remember that your testimony could have a lot of impact on the case. Since you are being called to testify on behalf of the defense, you do not want to do or say anything that will undermine its case. To avoid doing so, you should review the facts and learn how to answer questions.

Defense witnesses are often asked tough questions about themselves, but should answer truthfully.
Defense witnesses are often asked tough questions about themselves, but should answer truthfully.

You should really consider what it is that you have to contribute to the case. It may help if you write down what it is that you believe you know. This can help you differentiate how much you know from how much you think you know. When you testify, you want to be able to give solid facts. If you do not prepare ahead of time, you may be surprised that many of the things you have to say are dismissed as speculation or hearsay.

Defense witnesses must always stick to the facts.
Defense witnesses must always stick to the facts.

The way a defense witness answers questions can be beneficial or detrimental. It often becomes detrimental when a defense witness gives improper or excessive information. You should answer questions clearly and specifically. Learn to provide answers that only address the question asked of you. Do not act on the urge to give information you were not asked for.

It is also important to remember that you may leave as much of an impression as your testimony. What you have to say may be of major or minor importance. In either case, it can be overshadowed or even disregarded if you are not seen as a credible or cooperative witness.

To avoid this from happening, you should practice explaining what you know so you will come across as confident and honest. It usually helps if you meet with the defense attorney, because he can inform you of the types of questions he will ask and the types of questions the plaintiff’s attorneys are likely to ask. You should also consider what you will wear to court. The perceived credibility of a defense witness can be impacted by her appearance.

You may need to be prepared to answer some tough questions about yourself. For example, a prostitute who witnesses a murder in an alley is likely to be asked why she was in that vicinity. As a defense witness, you may also have to divulge information about sensitive, private, or illicit personal matters. Lying or hesitating to answer questions about yourself could damage your testimony and the outcome of the case.

Another reason to avoid lies is because lying can carry consequences. Whether the reason is to protect yourself or to help the defense, you should always remember that lying could result in perjury charges. Such charges could result in you being incarcerated or forced to pay fines.

Perjury charges may result in incarceration.
Perjury charges may result in incarceration.

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Discussion Comments


I'm going to appear in court as a defense witness. My testimony is not particularly important so I've just been told to dress well and answer questions clearly.


Being a defense witness is not easy. Sometimes an eye witness may be at bay for their testimony by the attorney of the other party. The other party will want to undermine a witness to strengthen their argument. So they may try to find discrepancies in the testimony or they may ask questions to reveal information that will harm the defendant's case.

It's easy for a defense witness to feel that they are being attacked in court. But a witness should remember that this is not about him or her. If a witness becomes emotional or defensive and reveals too much information, it can be harmful to the court case. So it's important to remain calm and and answer only what is asked, as truthfully and as short as possible.


I don't think that a defense witness has to prepare himself or herself before taking the stand. The defense attorney should prepare the witness. This is something that attorneys do all the time so it will not be an issue or inconvenience. When a case is very serious, which is the case in criminal proceedings, the defense attorney can prepare a mock trial to prepare witnesses.

In the mock trial, the witness is asked questions as though he or she is in court. The importance of this exercise is that the witness also gets an idea about what cross questioning will be like. Defense witnesses are told beforehand which questions the defense attorney will ask in court. But the defense witness does not know the questions that will be asked by the plaintiff.

This is why preparation is necessary because the witness should be clear about what he or she witnessed and should be able to answer a variety of questions about the incident.

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