Weilers LLP

So, You Want To Be A Witness…

So, You Want To Be A Witness…

March 5, 2024

By Jonathon Clark 

No one really WANTS to be a witness, but sometimes we have no choice. Courts run on evidence, and evidence comes through witnesses, whether in an affidavit or in person. We have already written about the serious business of affidavits. Being a witness in person is different but just as serious.

Here are answers to a few FAQs about witnesses:

  1. What is my role as a witness. You are there to present facts to court, or sometimes an opinion. You are not there to advocate for the party that asked you to testify.
  2. Who gets to give opinions? Experts mainly, though an ordinary witness can give their opinions about ordinary matters, such as “When I saw the car, it was going fast”.
  3. What is the process? You will either be served with a summons or asked to attend at a time and place. Often, lawyers will give you additional instructions about the timing of your evidence, and so on.
  4. Do I have to show up? Penalties for ignoring a summons may include being jailed until you agree to testify.
  5. What about preparation? You may be asked to go to a lawyer’s office to review the evidence you can give, what documents you can discuss, and specifics of your evidence. Sometimes this happens at the courthouse just before you are called to testify.
  6. What do I say? The truth. Lying in court is a serious offence. Do not let a party, lawyer or anyone else put a story in your mouth that is not your own.
  7. Will I get to watch evidence before I testify? Probably not. There is usually an order excluding witnesses. You may be permitted to stay after your evidence is complete.
  8. Who will ask me questions? The lawyer who called you will help you tell your part of the story, then the other lawyer will cross-examine you; then the first lawyer may ask a few clarifying questions if anything new came up in the cross-examination. Judges may ask a few clarifying questions at any time.
  9. Cross-examination? It sounds scary but is not something to worry about as long as you tell the truth. The preparation may include efforts to make you comfortable with this phase.
  10. What do I wear? Court is still a special occasion, so wear your best attire, or what you might wear to a wedding or funeral. No funny T-shirts please.


Being a witness is serious business. There are many other questions you may have. Do not be afraid to ask the lawyer to help you prepare. A few basic rules:

  • Short answers are always better than long answers.
  • Don’t guess.
  • Don’t answer a question unless you know the answer.
  • Always Always Always – tell the truth. The truth is your friend.

At Weilers LLP, we take the practice of law seriously; we take each case seriously; we take a witness’s credibility seriously. As much as we like to have fun, and be comfortable to deal with, we are serious lawyers.