Do you know how to testify in court? As a professional investigator, you are likely to need to appear in legal proceedings quite often throughout your career. Related professions may also have to appear in similar proceedings, including bail enforcement agents, bounty hunters, private security experts, repossession agents and others.
What do I need to know when asked to testify in court? What should I avoid doing? I am a bit nervous and hope that I do not screw up. Do you have any advice for me? These are all questions asked by private eyes when they are first called to testify in a legal forum. We can help to provide solid answers!
This post details the process of testifying in a legal forum as part of your job as a professional detective.
Why and How to Testify in Court
Why would you need to testify in court? There are many possible reasons:
You might have to present evidence that was uncovered as part of your investigation. This evidence might be in the form of video or photos, or may simply relate to what you witnessed and annotated in your case file. Finally, the evidence might involve a signed statement that you took or some other task that investigators commonly perform.
You may have to establish a timeline for an event based on your investigation.
You may have to confirm or deny activity that is important to the case, commonly gathered during surveillance or an activity check assignment.
You might be called by opposing counsel to your client or even subpoenaed to appear to provide testimony by a governmental or law enforcement agency.
How to Testify Confidently
Here are some expert tips for making the best impression when you must provide testimony at a legal proceeding:
Always double check when and where you need to appear well in advance of the proceeding. Make every effort to arrive early and be exactly where you need to be before the proceeding begins. Arriving with time to spare will give you time to settle in, calm down and focus on doing your job in the best way possible.
Dress well and make sure you are properly groomed for the occasion. Always present a professional appearance for yourself and your client, when applicable.
Use an appropriate voice if you must speak during the proceeding. Speak clearly, slowly and confidently in words that do not allow for any ambiguity of meaning. If you are being questioned directly or addressed, be sure to make eye contact with the person speaking to you. If providing testimony, be sure to make eye contact with the jury, judge or the most appropriate person given the situation.
Be sure to breathe and stay calm. Do not get emotional whatever happens. Do not become confrontational, even if directly confronted about something during your testimony.
How to Testify in Court and Profit
Being an expert witness is both a responsibility and an opportunity. If you are a good investigator, then you are already on the right path to career success, if not at this destination already. However, if you can speak well and provide excellent testimony services, as well, you will become in-demand for specific types of case work.
Attorneys love to work with investigators who make them look good and make their jobs easier. If you can fill this role, your lawyer contacts will keep you booked continuously with new clients.
As a final note, take time to observe legal cases when you can. I routinely would stay in court when I was asked to appear and watch the proceedings for the day when I could. I learned much from watching the best lawyers and witnesses over my time as a detective. These skills were directly transferable to my own vocation and I used them to become the most successful investigator in my respective field. The more you learn, the better you can do your job.