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Tips for Testifying in Court as a Defense Witness


Defense witnesses are individuals called upon by the defense in a criminal proceeding to provide testimony that supports the defendants’ case. Defense witnesses provide information that can help contradict the state’s case against the defendant. Witnesses in a criminal case include people with firsthand knowledge of what happened, individuals who can testify about the defendant’s behavior or reputation, also called character witnesses, and alibi witnesses who can attest to the defendant’s whereabouts at the time of the alleged crime. Being a defense witness is a crucial responsibility. Below are some tips for testifying in court as a defense witness;

#1: Prepare Thoroughly

The first crucial thing you need to do as a witness for the defense side is to prepare thoroughly. Familiarize yourself with the details of the case. If you will be testifying about what happened, take time to refresh your memory about the sequence of events. Take time to review any relevant documents, statements, or evidence provided to you by the defense attorney.

#2: Be Presentable

As a witness in a criminal case, you must dress appropriately. Dressing appropriately can help convey credibility and respect for the legal process and the court. While there are no hard-and-fast rules about how you should dress as a witness, the following are some guidelines;

  • Choose clothing that is conservative and professional in appearance. Avoid outfits that are too casual, such as overly revealing clothes.
  • Wear neutral colors like black, gray, brown, or navy blue
  • Choose conservative shoes
  • Keep accessories minimal
  • Cover tattoos with proper attire wherever feasible

#3: Stay Calm

Testifying in criminal court can be scary and intimidating. However, it is crucial that you remain calm. By remaining calm and relaxed, you can be able to deliver clear, credible testimony. Before entering the courtroom, take deep breaths and practice other relaxation techniques to calm your nerves.

#4: Always Be Honest

When testifying in court, always be honest. Do not lie or exaggerate, as that may undermine your credibility. Lying under oath can also result in you being charged with perjury. Perjury is a serious offense in the U.S. Penalties for perjury may include a prison sentence and fines.

#5: Speak Clearly and Confidently

When answering questions, speak clearly and confidently. Speaking clearly ensures that your testimony is understood by everyone. On the other hand, confidence makes your testimony more persuasive.

#6: Listen Carefully to Questions

Listen carefully to the questions being asked by the prosecutor and defense attorney. Ensure you understand each question before answering. If you don’t understand a question, you can ask that it be repeated or rephrased. Do not respond to a question before the attorney has completed the inquiry.

#7: Stick to the Point

Keep your answers as brief as possible, ensuring you stick to the point. Whenever possible, try to answer in one sentence. Avoid providing more information than necessary. If the question requires a “yes” or “no” answer, then simply answer “yes” or “no.” If your answer is insufficient, or there is more to the “yes” or “no” answer, the person who asked the question will ask a follow-up question, or you will be given a chance to explain yourself.

#8: Respect the Court

Finally, answer questions politely, even if you disagree with them and address the judge as “Your Honor.” Respect everyone in court, including the prosecuting attorney.

Contact Our NYC Criminal Attorney

If someone you know is facing criminal charges, contact our qualified NYC criminal attorney, Mark I. Cohen, at 917-414-8585 to get legal help.

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"... Mr. Cohen's effort... in everything he has done before the Court, is A-Plus... [R]ecently, in another case... [before me], the result he achieved for his client... was quite impressive." Honorable Kenneth M. Karas, United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York.


"So I have very sophisticated counsel here and, Mr. Cohen, [your client] is very fortunate in having you as his attorney, and I hope he appreciates that." – Quote from the Honorable Denise L. Cote, United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York.


"As Mark Cohen, a defense lawyer who has tried cases throughout the city and was a prosecutor in the Bronx, pointed out, there is a saying among defense lawyers in New York." – As provided in the New York Times City Room Blog.

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