For Kids (and Their Parents) Testifying in Court:
If you are coming to court, you must be wondering
what that will be like. Reading this will tell you a lot about
what going to court is like and make you feel better because you'll
know what to expect.
What is court anyway?
Court is where a judge decides whether someone
may have broken the law and what should be done about it. The
person who is accused of breaking the law is the defendant.
Why am I supposed to go to court?
You will go to court to tell what you know about
someone who is accused of breaking a law and hurting someone.
It is a crime to break the law and hurt someone. You may have
seen the crime or know something about it. That makes you a witness,
and a job of a witness is to testify in court about the truth
of what happened.
You may be the person who was hurt by the crime,
so you are a very important witness. People at the courthouse
will thank you for coming to court to tell what happened to you
and helping to make children safer.
How will I know what to do or say?
You already told the police about what you know.
What you said was very important, and now it is time for the police
and you to tell a judge in court about it.
Before you testify, you and your mom or dad will
get to see the courtroom and meet people who will help you on
the day you testify. That is when you can ask questions.
One person will be your Victim/Witness Advocate
who will explain about going to court and answer your questions.
She knows you are probably a little scared, and she will stay
with you the whole time.
The Prosecutor will ask you and the police questions
in court so that the judge learns what happened during the crime
and is sure that the police accused the right person. By answering
questions, you will tell what happened. Remember, your job is
to tell the truth.
What if I don't know the answer to a question?
That's OK. Say that you don't know. Don't guess.
Think about your answer before you give it. Remember, the truth
is the right answer.
If you don't remember how something happened, say
"I don't remember."
If you don't understand a question, say "I don't
understand the question."
If you are asked if something happened, and you
know it did not , then say so.
Do I have to talk in front of the defendant?
The defendant must be there to hear what all the
witnesses say about him. He won't ask the questions or talk to
you. The lawyer for the defendant is called the defense attorney
and will ask you questions after the Prosecutor finishes. Answer
the defense attorney's questions carefully and truthfully.
Who will be with me?
Of course your mom or dad or friends or other people
who you like to have with you when you are scared can be at the
courthouse with you. They can be inside the courtroom with you
unless they are witnesses too. (Witnesses testify one at a time
and wait outside the courtroom for their turn.) You will know
before the trial who gets to be there outside the courtroom ready
to give you a hug after you testify. You and everybody else will
be proud that you came and told the truth. Your Victim/Witness
Advocate and the Prosecutor will be with you too.
How long will I be there?
Testifying does not take long. Most of the time
you will just be waiting for your turn to testify. You and your
family and friends will be given a nice place to wait.
What should I wear?
Wear something comfortable and nice-looking.