Cómo prepararte si tienes que declarar como testigo en un juicio

¿Has recibido una citación judicial para acudir como testigo a un juicio? Mucha gente se pone nerviosa al tener que declarar ante un juez. En este artículo te explicamos cómo debes prepararte para declarar como testigo en un juicio.

prepararte para testificar en un juicio

Cuáles son mis derechos como testigo

Como testigo tienes derecho a que te proporcionen (de manera gratuita) un interprete si no hablas español o alguna de las lenguas oficiales en las diferentes regiones, como el catalán, el vasco o el gallego. Sin embargo, no tienes derecho a la traducción gratuita de documentos (la traducción jurada normalmente corre por por cuenta de la acusación o de la defensa, dependiendo de quien solicite el documento).

Gasco Abogados

Abogado de Madrid especialista en Derecho Penal

Tfno. 913 642 363

PRIMERA CONSULTA GRATUITA

Como testigo no tienes derecho a evitar la presencia del acusado en la misma sala. Si no quieres estar cerca mientras esperas a que te llamen, tendrás que ser tú quien se aleja. Pero cuidado con salir de la sala de espera, porque si no estás allí cuando te llamen a declarar, es lo mismo que si no hubieras ido.

¿Es obligatorio testificar en un juicio?

Si estás citado para testificar en un juicio, tienes obligación de acudir y contestar a las preguntas que te haga el juez o los abogados de las partes.

Si hay alguna causa que te impide acudir a testificar, debes ponerla en conocimiento del juzgado lo antes posible. Eso no significa que el juez te exima de testificar. Por ejemplo, el juez podría determinar que testifiques por videoconferencia si hay algún motivo justificado que te impida hacerlo en el juzgado.

Si no avisas al juzgado de que no vas a poder acudir a testificar, el juez puede obligarte a comparecer ante su presencia a declarar mandando a la policía a buscarte a tu domicilio (o poniendo una orden de búsqueda y captura si estás en paradero desconocido).

Recuerda, declarar en un juicio no es algo voluntario. Nuestro ordenamiento jurídico te obliga a ir como testigo a un juicio si así te lo requiere un juez.

Además de mandar a la policía para que te traiga a declarar por la fuerza, el juez puede sancionarte con una multa de hasta 5.000€ o, peor aún, podría acusarte de obstrucción a la justicia si, por ejemplo, ocultas pruebas que podrían ayudar a resolver un delito.

Tengo que contestar a todas las preguntas

Tienes obligación de responder a las preguntas que te hagan, pero no tienes obligación de recordar todo lo que pasó o tener una respuesta para cada pregunta. Si no recuerdas algo o no sabes algo, dilo, no te inventes nada.

Nadie puede recordar todo lo que pasó hace tiempo. A veces tienes que declarar sobre hechos que se produjeron hace más de dos o tres años, y es imposible recordar todos los detalles.

Si hay algún documento que relate lo ocurrido, por ejemplo, si estás testificando en calidad de perito y en su momento hiciste un informe, puedes pedir que te den una copia de dicho documento para refrescar la memoria, eso suponiendo que no lo lleves encima.

Si no entiendes una pregunta, pide que te la repitan o que te la aclaren, no contestes a lo que crees que te están preguntando. Si no estás seguro de haber entendido la pregunta, siempre es mejor pedir aclaraciones que contestar sin saber muy bien lo que te han preguntado. Es más, si no has comprendido la pregunta, es mejor no responder hasta tener claro lo que te están preguntando.

¿Puedo ir acompañado de un abogado?

Por supuesto que puedes ir acompañado de un abogado. Es más, si la declaración puede tener transcendencia para ti o para alguien cercano, deberías consultar a un abogado antes de testificar, para estar seguro de las consecuencias de tu declaración.

Cambio de dirección

Si has recibido una citación para declarar en un juicio y has cambiado de dirección antes de la celebración del juicio, deberías comunicar al juzgado tu nueva dirección por si acaso tienen que contactar contigo, por ejemplo, por si se suspende el juicio o si se traslada a otra fecha.

¿Puedo pedir que me compensen por los gastos de ir a declarar?

Cualquier testigo que declare ante un tribunal, tiene derecho a recibir una compensación por los gastos de viaje y alojamiento o los ingresos que haya dejado de percibir al tener que ir a declarar, abandonando su trabajo o su profesión.

Qué pasa en el juzgado cuando vas testificar

Cuando te pones delante de un juez para testificar, primero tienes que jurar que vas a decir la verdad. Mentir cuando prestas testimonio delante de un juez es un delito que está penado hasta con dos años de prisión y hasta doce meses de multa.

Una vez que has jurado decir la verdad, el abogado que ha solicitado tu presencia te hará varias preguntas para que puedas dar tu testimonio sobre el tema que se esté juzgando en ese momento.

Una vez que el abogado te haya hecho la pregunta, tienes varias opciones:

  • Responder a la pregunta
  • Pedir al abogado que te repita la pregunta de otra manera porque no la has entendido
  • Decir que desconoces la respuesta a la pregunta del abogado
  • Pedir al abogado que te explique el significado de cualquier palabra que no entiendas

Normalmente el testimonio se presta de pie, pero si tienes algún problema médico que te impide permanecer de pie, puedes pedir permiso al juez para sentarte. No lo hagas hasta que el juez te dé permiso.

Una vez que hayas respondido las preguntas del abogado que ha solicitado tu presencia durante el juicio, le llega el turno de hacer preguntas al abogado de la parte contraria. Su trabajo es desmontar la versión de la otra parte, y puede ser una experiencia estresante. Si no entiendes una pregunta, si la pregunta te molesta o si no te sientes bien, debes decírselo al juez. El juez puede suspender la sesión durante un tiempo para que te repongas. También puedes pedir un vaso de agua o un pañuelo de papel si lo necesitas.

Qué hacer mientras esperas a que te llamen

No deberías abandonar la sala de espera mientras esperas para que te llamen, porque el juez puede interpretar que no querías prestar testimonio, y te puede acarrear una sanción. Si tienes que salir de urgencia, asegúrate de que se lo comunicas al abogado que te ha citado o a algún responsable del juzgado. Es posible que te pidan el justificante para evitar ser sancionado.

Qué hacer cuando hayas terminado de declarar

Cuando termines de prestar testimonio, puedes irte a tu casa. También puedes permanecer entre el público para ver el resto del juicio.

No deberías comentar nada de lo que hayas dicho en sala con otros testigos que todavía no hayan prestado testimonio. Esto incluye hacer comentarios sobre tu declaración en las redes sociales.

Qué hacer si tienes que ir a declarar en horario de trabajo

Si tienes que declarar durante el horario de trabajo, deberías informar a tus jefes, pero éstos no te pueden negar el permiso para acudir a testificar a un juicio.

Aunque te hayan citado a una determinada hora, diles a tus jefes que los juicios suelen ir con retraso, por lo que deberían tenerlo en cuenta para calcular la hora en la que estarás de regreso en el trabajo.

Qué hacer si no puedes ir a declarar

Si el día que te han citado para declarar no puedes ir, por ejemplo, porque tienes fecha para una intervención médica, comunícalo al abogado que te haya citado para que lo ponga en conocimiento del juzgado y te den otra fecha para declarar. También puedes informar al juzgado directamente.

Cómo debes vestir para declarar

No hay una norma escrita sobre lo que deberías llevar al juzgado para ir a declarar, pero la mayoría de la gente lleva ropa «de vestir», no se presenta en ropa deportiva. Asegúrate de que la ropa que llevas es cómoda y que no te aprietan los zapatos, porque con el retraso que suelen llevar los juicios, el día se te puede hacer muy largo.

If you need to arrange childcare

You can claim up to £67 for each day that you’re in court to cover the cost of paying for childcare.

If you do take your children to court you’ll need to bring a friend or relative with you to look after them – children under 14 aren’t allowed into the courtroom unless they’re giving evidence. 

Check to see if the court you’re going to has baby changing facilities, if you need them.

Planning your travel

You can find a map and directions for the court you’re going to using the GOV.UK court and tribunal finder.

It’s best to plan your journey to court in advance so you make sure you have plenty of time on the day of the trial. A Witness Service volunteer can help you decide on the best way for you to travel to the court, if you’re not sure.

If you’re driving to court, park somewhere you can stay for the day – the trial could be delayed or go on longer than you expect.

You can claim expenses for travel, car parking charges and congestion charges.

If you can’t afford to get to court

You can get money in advance if you’re a prosecution witness – just let the Witness Care Unit know.

If you’re a defence witness, speak to the defence lawyer.

If you get a witness summons, the police can pay for your travel if you need it.

If you’re disabled

You can use the GOV.UK court and tribunal finder to find out:

  • what disabled parking, access and toilet facilities are available at the court
  • if the court has hearing enhancement facilities

You may be called as a witness in a criminal case or a civil case. The general rule is that everyone is competent and can be forced to be a witness.

How you are called as a witness

Before the trial begins, you may be contacted by legal representatives for the person who wants to call you as a witness. They may want to get a written statement from you detailing what happened. They may also want to meet with you to discuss this.

The summons or subpoena

If someone in a court case wants to call you as a witness, you will get a witness summons or a subpoena. This is a simple court form that sets out:

  • The name of the case
  • The date and time that the case will be heard
  • The court you must attend

If you get a summons or subpoena, you must attend court on the date listed on the form. If you fail to do so, you can be imprisoned for contempt of court. You cannot refuse to attend court as a witness because you say you are intimidated by one of the people in the case or because you are afraid to give evidence.

You may get a subpoena duces tecum. This type of subpoena means that as well as having to attend court, you must bring along the documents listed in the subpoena.

Taking time off work to be a witness

If you have to take time off work to go to court, you will not be paid for the time you are away from work. However, you may be entitled to witness expenses (see below). If your employer wants you to take this time off work as annual leave, the normal conditions for taking annual leave apply.

Being a witness in court

Taking the stand

At the trial, you may be one of a number of witnesses who are going to give evidence. Normally you will wait in the court and watch the trial until it is your turn to give evidence. Sometimes you may be asked to leave the court and if that happens, you will be told when to return.

When it is your turn to give evidence, the solicitor or barrister for the person who called you as a witness will stand up and name you as the next witness. You walk up to the front of the court and go into the witness box.

You can take an oath or affirmation. To take an oath, you stand in the witness box and the court registrar hands you a Bible or the holy text for your religion, if it is available. You hold the Bible or holy text and repeat the following oath after the registrar. The oath is «I swear by Almighty God (or whoever is relevant according to your religious belief) that the evidence I shall give shall be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth».

You must tell the registrar if you want to take the affirmation instead of the oath. If the holy text for your religion isn’t available to take the oath, you can take the affirmation instead. The words of the affirmation are «I, do solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm that the evidence that I shall give shall be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth». When you have repeated your oath or affirmation, you will sit down.

In certain situations you can give evidence by video-link instead of coming into the court.

Examination in chief

The solicitor or barrister for the person who called you as a witness will then ask you a series of questions that allow you to give your evidence. This is called the examination in chief.

The questions that you are asked at this stage are designed to guide you through your evidence, so that you can give your account of what happened in your own words. You should carefully consider each question and answer it truthfully.

During the examination in chief, you cannot be asked leading questions. These are questions that suggest the answer. For example, you cannot be asked «Did you see Mr. X cross the road?» but you can be asked «What did you see Mr. X do?»

Cross-examination

After the examination in chief, the solicitor or barrister for the other side will stand up and ask you a series of questions. This is called the cross-examination. The purpose of the cross-examination is to allow the other side to attempt to undermine or reduce the significance of your evidence.

You may be asked questions that are designed to make you seem unreliable, mistaken, confused or untruthful as a witness. Contradictions in your evidence may be pointed out to you, and you may be asked to explain those contradictions. During the cross-examination, you may be asked leading questions.

Re-examination

When the cross-examination is over, the solicitor or barrister for the person who called you as a witness can carry out a re-examination. This means that you will be asked more questions designed to clarify any issues that came up during the cross-examination. During the re-examination, you cannot be asked leading questions.

Leaving the stand

The judge can ask you questions, or to clarify something, at any time when you are in the witness box. When the cross-examination or re-examination is over, you will be asked to leave the stand. Normally that is the end of your involvement in the case. However, sometimes you may be asked to come back to court to give more evidence.

Witness expenses

As a court witness, you may be entitled to witness expenses.

If you are a witness for the prosecution in a criminal trial, you should tell the investigating Garda what your expenses are. For example, you may miss out on wages for the days that you are in court, and you may have travel expenses to get to court. You should keep receipts for your expenses. The Garda will apply to the judge to have the witnesses expenses paid. If the judge agrees and makes an order, you will be given a cheque for your expenses.

If you are a witness for the defence in a criminal trial, you may also be entitled to witness expenses. You should tell the solicitor who has summonsed you to court what your expenses are.

If you are a witness in a civil trial, you will normally be entitled to any out-of-pocket expenses you have incurred from having to give evidence. You should speak to the solicitor who has summonsed you to court and they will apply for expenses on your behalf. Normally all the witness expenses are paid by the person who has lost the civil case, as the losing person will usually be ordered to pay the costs of both sides.Expert witnesses such as doctors and psychiatrists are paid a set fee for giving evidence, whether it is a criminal trial or a civil trial. They are also paid for the reports they write for the case.

Further information

You should get legal advice for more detailed information on this.

This site gives information about the questions one might have regarding being a witness in court and why he/she is asked to witness

Court decisions are given on the basis of the evidence presented before the court. You have been asked to be a witness because you have something to tell that may be of importance to the court. By being a witness you can help the court to give a correct judgment.

You have to go to the court to act as a witness

Everybody who receives a witness summons must go to the court. You have been asked to be a witness because one of the parties requests it or because the court finds it necessary. The witness summons tells you when and where to attend. You must go to court even though you think you do not have any information about the case. If you do not go when you are told, you could be fined and found liable to pay compensation. The court can ask the police to bring witnesses to court.

If you are sick or for any other reason can not make it to the court when you are told, you must contact the prosecutor (his or her name is stated in the witness summons) as quickly as possible if you have been asked to be a witness in a criminal case. The prosecutor will then decide if you should be excused from acting as a witness. If you are not excused you must at once notify the court and hand in a sick note.

If you have been asked to be a witness in a civil case and you are sick or cannot go to the court for any other reason, you must notify the court as quickly as possible.
It is the court that decides whether your absenteeism is legal or not.

If your travel to the court exceeds 800 km by public transportation or 125 km by other means of transportation, you can apply to the court to be excused as a witness. If you have been asked to be a witness in a criminal case you should contact the prosecutor, as he or she will consider if you can be excused as a witness or if your evidence can be given in any other way.

If you have been asked to be a witness in a civil case you should contact the court. If you have difficulties arriving on time for your scheduled meeting in court, you must contact the court and ask if it possible for a delay. 

You will have to wait

Even though you are told to come to the court at a specific time, you will probably have to spend some time waiting. The time you have been given has been set according to an assessment of how long court proceedings are expected to last before you give your evidence. While every effort will be made to keep that time, this is not always possible and you may have to wait. While waiting it is important that you wait in the waiting area or nearby the courtroom where your evidence will be heard. Outside of the courtroom the party that has summoned you as a witness will contact you. It is possible that you will be asked to come back later that day or another day.

What should I do to prepare for the time in court?

Before you go to court it is advisable to make notes about what you remember of the case. You can bring your notes to the court. You can also prepare by reading letters, case papers, etc. You can also contact the lawyers. The lawyers may also want to contact you prior to your court appearance. However, you should not discuss the case with any other persons.

What proceedings take place in the courtroom?

Before a witness is asked to give his or her evidence, the parties present and explain the case for the court. If it is a criminal case the defendant will also give his or her statement to the court. As a general rule witnesses cannot be present in the courtroom until after having given their evidence. When it is time to give your evidence the judge will ask your name, date of birth, address and occupation. You will also be asked if you are related to any of the parties in the case. You must also tell the court if you have any other relations to the parties, for instance mutual economic interests.

Due to kinship or any other relations to the parties you may choose not to give your evidence or not to answer specific questions. If you are under the obligation of confidentiality you may not be able to give your evidence unless it is revoked legally.

You have to make an affirmation

Before you can give your evidence you normally have to make an affirmation. The judge (the court administrator) will ask you to promise to tell the truth and not to hold back any evidence. The judge will also tell you that a false explanation is a crime and can be punished. You should then answer: ”So I affirm” (Det forsikrer jeg).

How is my evidence taken?

Witnesses are often asked to explain what they know about the case. If you are uncertain about what to tell the court, you can ask for concrete questions. The lawyers as well as the judge can ask questions. If you are uncertain what to answer or you do not remember what took place, you must tell the court so. You can refer to your notes but your statement must be given orally. Giving false information is liable to imprisonment for up to five years. Unless you are asked to wait, you can leave the court when you have given your evidence. You can also follow the rest of the case by sitting in with the public.

You can claim your expenses

You are entitled to have your costs of travelling to the court covered when the distance is at least 15 km. Within the city limit and when the travel to the court is less than 15 km you are entitled to have your factual public transportation expenses covered. Compensation for going by car to the court is only given if this is cheaper than public transport or there are special reasons allowing you to use your own car. The court must approve such compensation in advance. If the distance to the court exceeds 15 km and the travelling is more than five hours you are also entitled to an allowance for board. If you are unable to pay for the cost of travelling to the court yourself, you can contact the local police office and ask for a travel voucher. If you have to stay overnight you are also entitled to a night allowance according to the rates set in ”The Government’s agreement on travels (Statens særavtale om reiser). Valid rates can be obtained from the court. Claims must be made to the court after you have given your evidence or at the latest one month after you finished the travel.

You will be compensated for any loss of wages when going to court

Compensation for the loss of any wages for being a witness in criminal cases can be given when this is documented. You must bring proof of expenses and loss of wages (confirmation from your employer) and your tax report card.

Other questions?

If you have more questions regard being a witness in the court, ask the police or the particular court where the case is heard.