A DUI is considered a “victimless” crime in Arizona; thus, a defendant can be prosecuted even if no one was injured prior to the arrest. However, if you were injured in an accident involving a driver who was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you may be called on for testifying in a criminal case against said driver. It’s normal to feel nervous in such a situation. Just remember that you’re not on trial. And if you don’t speak up, the person who hurt you could go unpunished—and perhaps even harm someone else. The bravery that you show by testifying will help your peace of mind in the long run.
The prosecutor may speak with you briefly or at length before the trial. For attorneys, a general rule when conducting a direct examination is: “Don’t ask a question to which you don’t know the answer.” Therefore, the prosecutor will want to know generally what you’re going to say before you take the stand. You may also have your own private attorney help you prepare to testify.
The injury attorneys at Phoenix Accident and Injury Law Firm in Phoenix have significant experience in helping clients who have been victims of DUI accidents and need help testifying in court. If you need help filing a claim for one of these awful, life changing accidents, we are here to help you get the compensation you deserve. Our offices are conveniently located in Chandler, Peoria, and North Phoenix, and we can meet in-person or over the phone or video call. You can contact us for a free consultation, or read on to find out more.
By the way, we will also help with other problems that have cost you sleep, like getting a rental car very soon and finding a nearby doctor or psychiatrist who can help get your life back on track. Even the best legal team isn’t good enough if your quality of life isn’t sustainable while justice and compensation are on the way. The whole point of legal action is to regain quality of life, so we help you long-term as attorneys and short-term as your go-to people. Our familiarity with the local Phoenix courts makes us confident that we can help you get the best settlement possible.
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When You’re on the Stand
When you’re called to the stand for testifying in a criminal case, you’ll probably be questioned by both the prosecutor and the defense attorney. The prosecutor will ask you questions to establish:
- That the defendant was actually driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- That the defendant caused the accident in which you were injured.
- The nature and extent of your injures.
You may not have a lot to say about the first issue. If you were seriously injured, you might not have had much interaction with the defendant, and thus might not be able to testify about whether he or she seemed impaired.
The defense attorney may object when the prosecutor asks you questions about your injuries. This evidence is not directly relevant to whether the defendant was driving under the influence, because even sober drivers can get into accidents and cause injuries. The defense attorney may try to get you off the stand as quickly as possible to avoid more opportunities for the jury to feel sympathetic toward you (and thus potentially more likely to convict his or her client).
However, a defense attorney may go on the attack if he or she feels that you could be lying about the accident or concealing facts. For example, the defense may also endeavor to establish that you yourself were driving recklessly in an attempt to prove that the accident was not caused by the defendant’s impairment.
The defense attorney should not attack a victim’s character in general, though and if he or she tries to do so, the prosecutor should object.
Things to Remember When Testifying in a Criminal Case
Here are some things to remember when you’re testifying on the stand:
- Always tell the truth.
- Listen carefully to the questions.
- Ask for clarification if you need it.
- Answer ONLY the question asked.
- Yes or No may be an appropriate answer.
- Say “I don’t know” if you don’t. You can also say “I don’t remember” if you don’t.
- Never get into an argument with the lawyer questioning you.
- Be respectful toward the judge and other courtroom personnel.
- Speak loudly and clearly so the court reporter can hear you and write down what you say.
- If you don’t speak or understand English well, ask for an interpreter well before trial.
- If one attorney objects to the other attorney’s question, wait for the judge to rule and tell you whether or not you should answer.
- Your behavior outside of the courtroom is as important as your conduct inside the courtroom. Do not discuss your case in the restroom or hallways.
- Do not speak to the judge or jurors during the duration of your case. They must remain unbiased in the case.
- You may have emotional responses throughout different aspects of the case and the hearings. This includes when the defendant states “not guilty,” when you are testifying, and during sentencing. You may hear things that cause you to have a number of emotions you may not have anticipated.
- If you are concerned about not being able to manage your emotions at any time throughout the trial, including when you are testifying, it is appropriate to leave the courtroom. You want to avoid influencing the judge or jury.
- If you have questions at any time during the trial, write them down in a notebook or this workbook. Share them with the prosecutor or victim advocate at an appropriate time. Do not whisper during the trial.
Testifying in a Criminal Trial
If you are testifying, be sure to follow these guidelines:
- Be honest in your responses.
- Dress appropriately. For most cases, business attire works well.
- Do not chew gum.
- Speak loudly and clearly so that you can be heard correctly.
- Stop speaking when an attorney objects or if the judge interrupts you.
- Only discuss your testimony with the attorney. Do not talk about the trial in front of the judge, jurors, or other witnesses.
- If the defense attorney asks if you have discussed your testimony with your attorney, it is appropriate to answer in the affirmative. While you may have received guidance from your attorney, you are answering questions to the best of your ability and truthfully when you are testifying.
- If you are asked a question that you do not understand, ask for clarification. If you feel that the attorney is manipulating your answers or steering the conversation in a specific direction while you are testifying, ask the judge for the opportunity to clarify your responses.
- If a question is asked while you are testifying that you don’t know the answer to, you can reply “I don’t know”, or “I don’t remember”.
Testifying in the Courtroom
- Dress conservatively and be respectful. You are there to share your testimony, not be a fashion statement.
- It is okay to use notes during your testimony if you need them. Remember that the judge or attorneys may be allowed to view your notes if you use them.
- Be descriptive as you relay the emotional, financial, physical, and mental effects of the incident while you are testifying. You want to give a clear picture of what happened and how it has affected you.
- Avoid using negative statements toward the defendant. Stick to your story and how the incident has had an impact on you personally. This includes insults and accusations.
- Maintain eye contact with the attorney who is asking questions while you are testifying. If you are directed to explain something to the judge or jury, look to them directly.
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At Phoenix Accident and Injury Law Firm near you, we have more than 15 years of experience helping clients with testifying after a DUI accident in the Phoenix area. When you’re ready to talk, please contact our office to arrange a free initial consultation by phone or at our Chandler office, conveniently located near you.
If you have been in a DUI accident, contact Phoenix Accident and Injury Law Firm in nearby Chandler, AZ to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney. We provide personal injury legal services to clients in your area including Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa, Scottsdale, Tempe, and Peoria.