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Five Tips for Testifying in Court

NCJ Number
Law and Order Volume: 51 Issue: 7 Dated: July 2003 Pages: 110-113
M. P. Gunderson
Date Published
July 2003
4 pages
Five tips for police officers in testifying in court are to know the nature of the hearing, review all reports, meet with the prosecutor prior to testifying, know the rules of the courtroom, and rise to the highest standard.
When an officer receives a subpoena from the prosecutor's office, it will often contain only the time and date of the hearing and the case number. Under such a circumstance, the officer does not know the type of hearing at which he/she is testifying, i.e., a trial, a motion to suppress, a deposition, a grand jury proceeding, or a preliminary hearing. The officer should pull the case file and make a call to the prosecutor or attorney who sent the subpoena in order to determine the nature of the hearing. In addition to determining the nature of the hearing, the officer should also review all case reports and notes prior to testifying. The officer should be so well informed about his own reports that only the most insignificant detail would require him/her to refer to a report while on the stand. Further, the officer should meet with the prosecutor prior to testifying. The prosecutor can provide information about the style of the defense attorney and suggest how to respond to that style. Any questions or concerns about the content of the testimony can also be addressed in this meeting. In addition, the officer should know the rules of the courtroom that bear upon the presentation of testimony in the particular case. Finally, an officer must respond truthfully to all questions and never become defensive, argumentative, or belligerent.