FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT BEING A WITNESS
What does it mean to be a witness?
A witness is any individual who knows something, no matter how little, about the facts of a court case and can answer questions about those facts in court.
Do I have to come to court?
Yes. Having the testimony of witnesses in civil or criminal cases is vital to ensuring the constitutional right to a fair trial. Because every citizen has a right to a fair trial, it is important to the overall justice system that witnesses appear in court.
Where are the courtrooms?
All the courtrooms are on the second floor of the Clermont County Courthouse. There are no courtrooms on the first floor (street level) where you enter the Courthouse. Courtrooms 204 (Judge McBride) and 205 (Magistrates) are down a corridor to the left of the second floor main lobby.
I don’t get around well because of my health. Do I still have to testify?
Yes. The courthouse is modern and is accessible to individuals with canes, crutches, or wheelchairs. There are elevators that serve the courtroom floor and ramps in other parts of the building. If there are very special needs that you have, please contact the court in advance to make arrangements.
Can I just give a written statement?
Generally no. A judge might allow this on the motion of an attorney, but almost all testimony is given in court. A written statement might be incomplete, misleading, or have mistakes. More importantly, all of the parties in court have the right to ask questions of the witnesses. A written statement cannot respond to the questions that need to be asked.
Will I be under oath?
Yes. It is a legal requirement that a witness take an oath to tell the truth before testifying.
What if my religion prohibits swearing an oath?
Instead of an oath, a witness can give a solemn affirmation to tell the truth without requiring any reference to a deity or violation of a religious principle. If you prefer to use the affirmation, please tell the bailiff before the oath is administered.
I’m coming to court as a witness. Can I use my laptop while waiting?
Yes. The Courthouse has free Wi-Fi. You can log in and work on your laptop while waiting.
What is a subpoena?
A subpoena is a formal court order requiring a witness to appear in court. A subpoena may also require a witness to bring documents or other items with them to court.
What happens if I ignore a subpoena?
Because a subpoena is a court order, a witness who disobeys that order can be arrested by a deputy sheriff and brought to court involuntarily.
Do I get reimbursed for my expenses as a witness?
Witnesses can take their subpoenas to the Clerk’s office on the first floor to get paid the standard legal witness fee for testifying. The amount is calculated based on if you were in court all day or a half a day, plus $0.10 per mile round trip travel. Witness fees will be mailed out after the trial is over.
Being a witness will make me miss work. Do I have to be there for the whole trial?
Witnesses do not generally need to be in court the entire length of the trial, three days for example. You should contact the attorney that subpoenaed you and see if the attorney can give you an exact day and time you need to be in court.
Can I watch the trial until I’m called as a witness?
Probably not. Attorneys usually ask the court to have witnesses kept outside the courtroom. This happens because the court wants to have your testimony free from any suggestion, so you cannot listen to other witnesses. You will generally have to wait outside the courtroom until you are called.
I’m afraid of someone involved in the trial. Do I still have to come to court?
If this occurs, you should contact the attorney who is calling you as a witness. The Clermont County Sheriff provides security in all trials in the courthouse. Everyone must go through a metal detector to get into the courthouse.
How do I get to the right courtroom?
Bring your subpoena or any letter asking you to come to court with you when you go to the courthouse. That document should say which courtroom to go to. All the courtrooms are on the second floor of the courthouse and are numbered 201, 202, 203, 204, and 205. If you don’t know where you are supposed to go, there are court schedules available at the Assignment Office on the second floor in the main lobby.
Can I smoke while I wait?
Not inside the Courthouse. The Clermont County Courthouse is a non-smoking building, as are all government buildings in Clermont County. You may smoke outside the building.
What should I wear to court?
Because being a witness is an important and solemn obligation as a citizen, you should dress as well as you can, or as you would for church or an important business meeting. The Court suggests that you not wear Tee-shirts, cut offs and other shorts, sandals, flip-flops, and other casual clothing if you can avoid it.
I’m supposed to be a witness in a criminal case. Should I call the prosecutor’s before I am to be a witness?
It is a good idea for a witness is to call the prosecutor’s office the morning they are supposed to be in court. A case can be dismissed, rescheduled, or be the subject of a guilty plea on short notice. A call to the prosecutor’s office should give you an update on the case schedule.
I’m supposed to be a witness in a civil case. Should I call the court before I am to be a witness?
It is a good idea for a witness is to call the assignment office the morning they are supposed to be in court. A case can be dismissed, rescheduled, or be the subject of a settlement on short notice. A call to the assignment office (513-732-7108) should give you an update on the case schedule.