Avoid the Biggest Court Witness Mistakes

When it comes to witness testimony, preparation is the key to success. Oftentimes, when a case is just beginning or isn’t likely to result in a trial, people tell things to attorneys that they never plan on testifying about or sharing in court. 

Avoiding Witness Mistakes 

Thorough, complete preparation is the key to avoiding witness mistakes. Conducting interviews with witnesses ahead of time prevents embarrassing moments when they contradict themselves or testify differently while under oath. 

Here’s a list of the biggest and most common court witness mistakes:  

Witnesses Don’t Know Their Purpose

It sounds obvious, but emotions run high in civil and criminal cases. While attorneys have a good idea of what he or she wants to talk about with each witness, sometimes the witness forgets their purpose when they are in court. Attorneys can provide outlines of expected topics and questions that the witness can refer to from time to time before testifying. These outlines can serve as guidelines for pre-trial witness interviews.

Witness Bias 

The witness’s bias is often revealed under oath. Pre-trial witness interviews can identify personal feelings that may cause bias, helping attorneys focus on other impartial witnesses.  

Nonverbal Cues 

Speaking in front of a judge or roomful of people is stressful. Factors like posture, eye contact, and facial expressions all make an impression. While telephone conversations or video conference software can help you gather information, there’s no substitute for a face to face meeting. It’s a fact that attorney time and resources are finite; but that shouldn’t prevent a face to face meeting. Using a private investigator with experience in witness interviews can help you prepare and conduct witness interviews. 

Lack of Information

If the original interview didn’t allow for conversational style answers, attorneys can be surprised by new information in court. It’s important that pre-trial interviews and information gathering sessions go beyond “yes” and “no” answers. If the witness is quiet or doesn’t provide much detail, experienced investigators will often ask questions like, “what happened next,” and “what else did you observe.”

If it’s a high-stress civil or criminal case, it’s best to meet witnesses in a location where they are comfortable. If possible, conduct pre-trial interviews and sessions at their home, or a place where they are most comfortable.


It is essential to put together all of the inconsistencies in a witness’s testimony. If there are discrepancies with information that other sources have given, such as an interview conducted or statements made at another time, ask them about those differences and explain any discrepancy. 

When a neutral third-party handles witness interviews, they can be an excellent resource for preventing inconsistencies in witness testimony. Private investigators who have experience working with legal teams are trained to spot inconsistencies, dishonesty, and gaps in evidence — including using computer forensics to recover information that hasn’t been seen. 

Avoid Witness Mistakes Through Private Investigation

Working as an investigator for over 30 years has given us the opportunity to interview and make use of witness testimony in civil and criminal proceedings. Our trained investigators support attorneys with experience, care and discretion. 

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