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How to Question a Witness

Updated September 9th 2022

4 min read

A witness can be a useful resource for your case if utilized effectively

How to Question a Witness

How to Question a Witness

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Trey Salm

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Dispute is the easiest & most accurate small claims platform with affordable ways to resolve every dispute.

To obtain the most accurate information possible, it is important to know how to question a witness. Asking the right questions correctly can mean the difference between uncovering the truth and getting misleading or false information. After your small claims case is accepted and you have your hearing date, you can make your case stronger with witnesses. Here's how to question a witness.

The Basics of Questioning a Witness

Before you start questioning a witness, you'll want to make sure you have some basic information about them. This includes their name, address, and phone number. This way, you can follow up with them if you need to. This can help establish a rapport with the witness. You want them to feel comfortable with you so they'll be more likely to open up and provide helpful information.

When you question a witness, it is important to remember that they may be nervous, and their statements may be contradictory. It is important to be respectful and patient. Ask open-ended questions that will allow the witness to provide their unique testimony.

It is also important to be clear before your hearing about what you want to ask the witness. You should have an idea of the information you are looking for, and you should be able to articulate your questions in a way that the witness will understand. You should also be prepared to follow up on the witness's answers if they provide new information you had not considered.

Using neutral language and not asking "leading questions" is helpful. For example, instead of saying, "Did you see the defendant hit the victim?" you would say, "What did you see happen between the defendant and victim?" Leading questions can bias a witness and make their testimony less reliable. So it's important to avoid them if you want to get accurate information.

Lastly, you should be prepared to take notes. This will help you keep track of the conversation and ensure you don't miss anything important.

What to Avoid When Questioning a Witness

Asking a witness questions can be a delicate process. You want to get the information you need without putting the witness on the spot or making them feel uncomfortable. A good tip is to avoid making assumptions about what the witness knows. If you assume the witness knows something, you may inadvertently lead them to give you the answer you want to hear. This can lead to loaded questions.

Loaded questions are those that contain an assumption that can not be proven or that are leading in nature. For instance, "Have you stopped cheating on your taxes?" implies that the person being questioned has cheated on their taxes in the past. These types of questions should be avoided.

In addition, asking irrelevant questions can be a costly mistake. Not only will it waste time, but it can also give the impression that you are not prepared or do not know what you are doing. This can undermine your credibility and damage your case. Stick to questions relevant to the matter at hand, and be sure to know the purpose of each question before you ask it.

It's also important not to ask anything that could incriminate them. You want to avoid anything that could be construed as an admission of guilt or responsibility. Only ask questions that will help to establish the facts of the case. Remember, the goal is to get to the truth, not to incriminate the witness.

Remember, the goal of questioning a witness is to get information that will help you prove your case. Be prepared, be professional, and be respectful. If you do these things, you will be more likely to get the information you need from the witness.

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