Understanding the Criminal and Civil Justice Systems

not know the answer to a question, say so. If you feel an attorney is trying to manipulate you into an answer that is not true, turn to the judge and tell him/her that you will need to explain your answer. • Be descriptive as you tell of the physical, emotional, and financial impact of the crash. Describe particular events that were/are painful for you. Your goal is to enable the judge or jury to come as close as possible to understanding how you feel. • Maintain eye contact with the attorney who has asked you the question. Don’t look to the prosecutor for help when being questioned by the defense attorney. Look at the judge or jury if the attorney asks you to explain something to them. • If you request that the defendant pay restitution to your family, be prepared to present actual bills and statements of the amounts paid or owed. • Always be honest. Take your time. Pausing before your answer indicates that you are taking the questions seriously and thinking before you speak. If you approach the task of testifying with integrity, your testimony will be respected. Court Continuances Ask to be informed of pretrial hearings, including requests for continuances. Pretrial hearings are open to the public (including you), although the attorneys usually tell you Always be honest when testifying.

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