San Joaquin County
District Attorney's Office

Subpoena Help

As a witness in court you play an important role. It is your testimony, along with the testimony of the other witnesses in this case, that will provide the judge or jury with the facts they need to reach a proper decision. The information on this sheet should answer many of the questions you may have about your role as a witness.

  • Your Information. Let the District Attorney know if you change your address or telephone number. This is important so that we can notify you of any change in the date or time that you are to appear in court, and so that we can give you information about what is happening with the case in which you are a witness.
  • Dress. It is helpful to make a good first impression by dressing neatly to show respect for the court. (Similarly, wearing hats or even chewing gum is generally not acceptable in court). You may also want to bring a sweater or dress warmly as many courtrooms are cool.
  • Parking. Most street parking is limited, may require you to pay parking meters, and includes the risk of having your vehicle towed during certain hours. When driving to the Stockton Courthouse at 180 E. Weber Avenue , many people choose to park in the paid parking lots like the SEB Parking Garage on S. El Dorado St. or the Ed Coy Garage on Hunter Street . If you have been subpoenaed, the District Attorney's Office will pay for your parking. Just remember to bring your parking ticket to the Victim-Witness desk on the 11th floor of the Courthouse.
  • Sequestering. Witnesses or potential witnesses will more than likely be sequestered from the courtroom, which means that they will not be allowed in the courtroom during any other witness testimony. This can be very frustrating for victims/survivors and witnesses, but it is a common practice and done to ensure that the witnesses' testimonies do not influence each other.
  • Waiting. The court process can be very long. Even if you were asked to be here for court first thing in the morning, it is possible that you will need to wait for a large part of the day for your turn to be in court. Bring a book, cards, or anything to keep you occupied during your wait. Snacks are a good idea as well as toys for young children.
  • Electronics. Turn all pagers or cell phones off or to vibrate while in the courtroom. This is very important as many judges do not tolerate pagers and cell phones in the court room and will kick you out of the courtroom.
  • Report. Report anyone who tries to prevent you from going to court. It is against the law for anyone to try to prevent you from going to court, or to threaten or intimidate you in any way to keep you from reporting a crime to the police or from helping the District Attorney bring a case to trial. If you feel anyone is trying to do this, call the police, tell them you are a witness in this case and what is happening to you so that it can be stopped.

In the courtroom will be the following:

  • Judge - Presides over the court
  • Bailiff - Keeps order in the courtroom and guards the defendant
  • Court Reporter - Writes down everything that is said during the trial
  • Court Clerk - Handles all paperwork in the courtroom
  • Prosecuting Attorney (Deputy District Attorney) - Acts on behalf of the State of California and the victim(s)
  • Defending Attorney (Public defender or private attorney) - Acts on behalf of the defendant
  • Defendant - Person accused of the crime

In the courtroom may or may not be the following:

  • Interpreters, if needed
  • Police Officers and Investigators involved in the case
  • Any other witnesses
  • Family/friends
  • Know that a courtroom is a public place and unless specified otherwise by a judge, almost anyone can observe the proceedings.

During a preliminary hearing, evidence suppression hearing or trial, you may be questioned by the prosecuting attorney (D.D.A.) and the defending attorney. The following are some pointers on how to be a good witness.

  1. BE TRUTHFUL. Never exaggerate or shade your testimony. Just tell the facts, simply and concisely, as you know them.
  2. FOCUS. Listen carefully to the question. If you do not understand a question, ask to have it repeated.
  3. DO NOT GUESS. If you do not know an answer do not be afraid to say so. However, if you are sure of your answer say so directly. It's best not to use phrases such as "I guess" or "I believe" when giving testimony in court.
  4. ANSWER ONLY HE QUESTION ASKED. Do not try to say everything at once or volunteer information that wasn’t asked.
  5. EXPLAIN YOUR ANSWER, IF NECESSARY. If the answer cannot be answered truthfully and fully with a simple "yes" or "no" you have the right to ask the judge to permit you to explain your answer after first answering "yes" or "no".
  6. BE PREPARED. Do not try to memorize what you are going to say; try to recall relevant facts.
  7. TAKE YOUR TIME WHEN ANSWERING. Think about your answer briefly before you speak to be sure it is accurate. This also allows the lawyers to object if they feel the question is not proper. If an objection is made to a question that you are asked, STOP. Do not try to finish your answer until the judge decides if the question was proper.
  8. WHEN AN ATTORNEY OBJECTS TO A QUESTION. Do not answer the question until the judge rules on the objection and instructs you to answer the question. If the judge believes the objection has merit, the objection will be "sustained." If the judge does not believe the objection has merit, the objection will be "overruled." If you are confused, ask the judge for direction.
  9. REMAIN CALM AND COURTEOUS. Do not lose your temper or become angry, as it may diminish the impact of your testimony.
  10. SPEAK CLEARLY AND LOUDLY. Always face the person questioning you, and speak clearly enough to be heard by a jury. Do not simply nod for a "yes" or shake your head for a "no."
  11. DRESS NEATLY AND ALWAYS SHOW RESPECT FOR THE COURT. For example, chewing gum or wearing a hat while on the stand will not be acceptable in court.

BE YOURSELF. The judge, jurors, and attorneys are human and appreciate sincerity.