Testifying in Court

The criminal justice system can be overwhelming to crime victims. This web page is a guide to the process and to the terms you may encounter as your case moves through the criminal justice system.

The Subpoena

A subpoena is a court order requiring you to be present at the time and place stated. You will receive the subpoena either in person or by mail.

It is important to understand that court hearings do not always take place at the exact time scheduled. Calendar conflicts, the unavailability of witnesses, legal motions or court scheduling conflicts may cause delays or continuances. The Deputy District Attorney assigned to your case may ask that you agree to be on “telephone stand by” which means that you can continue your normal routine but you must be able to come to court immediately when you are called.

The subpoena will state the type of hearing at which you are to appear. If you do not appear, the judge may issue a warrant for your arrest and impose a fine and/or a jail sentence. Please bring your subpoena with you to court.


If the case is continued to another court date we will make every attempt to notify you that you do not need to appear in court. However, there are some instances when the continuance is sought on the date you are scheduled to appear and we may not be able to notify you in time.

If you have questions about your subpoena please call the District Attorney’s Office at (760) 482-­‐4331


When you appear in court as a witness, you will be called to the witness stand by the Deputy District Attorney to testify about what you saw, heard or did. After the Deputy District Attorney is finished asking you questions, the defense attorney will have the opportunity to ask you questions. The questioning by the defense attorney is called “cross examination”. The defense attorney has the right to ask questions to test your memory of the facts.

Defense Attorney

The defense attorney may ask to talk with you to find out about your testimony. There are no rules or laws prohibiting you from telling the defendant’s attorney or a representative of the defense what your testimony will be. However, you are not required to do so. This is your decision. Feel free to discuss any of this with the Deputy District Attorney assigned to the case. If you chose to speak to the defense, you may wish to have another person present or tape record the interview to avoid later misquotations and misunderstandings.