Guide for Testifying in Court

What Does it Mean to be Subpoenaed?

When a crime is committed, regardless of the offense, it is considered a wrong against the State. As a result, the State of Minnesota files a complaint on behalf of its residents. The county attorney's office represents the State of Minnesota. You have been subpoenaed on behalf of the State to testify about facts concerning the alleged crime. A subpoena is a Court Order requiring you to come to court and testify. We realize that being a witness may carry with it substantial burdens. It is our hope to eliminate as many of these difficulties and uncertainties as possible. If your employer says you cannot go to court, call us.

On Your Day in Court

• Contact the county attorney's office one week ahead of time to talk to the prosecuting attorney who will be trying the case.

• Dress appropriately. You will be appearing in front of a judge and possibly a jury, and your appearance will be important.

• Bring your subpoena with you. It contains important information on where the trial will take place.

• Arrive promptly, but bring materials with you to help pass the time in the event of a delay.

• Plan accordingly. Your appearance may be two hours, or it could be the better part of a day. Do not plan to return to work.

When You are On the Stand

• Tell the truth.

• Speak clearly and in your normal conversational tone of voice. A court reporter will be taking down everything you say. Answer with a "yes" or "no," and not with "yeah," "uh-uh" or shaking of head.

• Speak in your own words. Visualize the incident and speak frankly.

• Listen carefully to each question. Never answer a question that you do not fully understand. You may ask for the question to be clarified. If you realize you have answered a question incorrectly, ask to correct it immediately.

• Stop speaking if you hear the work "object." The judge will instruct you further.

• Always be polite. Do not be argumentative or sarcastic.

• When at all possible, give positive, definite answers. If you do not know or are not sure of the answer, say so. Do not guess. There is nothing wrong with saying "I don't know." You can be positive about the important things without remembering all the details.

• Testifying for a substantial length of time is surprisingly tiring. If you feel you need a break, tell the judge.

Things Not Allowed inside the Courtroom

• Food/Drink

• Gum

• Hats

• Overcoats

• Active pagers and cellular telephones

• Tobacco in any form

• Unnecessary conversation (i.e. loud whispering)

• Magazines/newspapers

• Verbal or nonverbal reaction to what is happening in court

• Cameras, recording devices

• Guns and other weapons

Changes in Dates or Times

If the case is still going to trial, but the date or time you are required to appear in court changes, you will be notified. This office will do everything possible to make your experience in court a positive one. We will explain the court process, review your testimony and familiarize you with the courtroom. Typically you will only be able to be in the courtroom during your testimony. If you want to hear other testimony, please ask the prosecuting attorney.


You will receive witness fees for attending court, including mileage. To receive these fees you must bring your subpoena with you to court. This will be more fully explained on the day of trial.