A witness in a criminal case is someone who testifies at a court hearing because they observed or have direct knowledge of a crime or significant event. They help lawyers verify versions of the events at trial and are often critical to the ultimate outcome of a case. A witness may have seen a crime, heard a shout during a crime or may be commenting on the character of someone.
When deciding whom you should ask about testifying at a potential criminal trial, it’s important to start by explaining the different kinds of witnesses.
Fact witnesses. These are people who were there to tell your side of what happened, or who were with you in a different place than where the crime took place. These witnesses from the beginning should be asked to write down everything they remember so they can use those notes to refresh themselves months later for trial. You will need to provide contact information to your lawyer so they can get in touch and question them if need be.
Reputation witnesses. This can be tricky given the rules in Florida surrounding how such witnesses can be used. In Florida, you cannot call a witness just to say that you are a good person, but you can call a witness who knows you from a relevant “community” about your “reputation for honesty” if you have testified. They may be able to testify about your “reputation” for peacefulness or other characteristics that are relevant to the specific crime that is charged.
A “community” can be a neighborhood, a place of employment, a church, school or other defined group. “Reputation” means that they know you and other people who know you and that you have a reputation for the trait they are claiming your possess. These witnesses need to talk to your lawyer before they testify, because it is a strange way to talk about someone that will likely not come naturally to them at first.
It’s almost always a good idea to have an Jacksonville criminal defense attorney for any reason, please contact the Law Office of David M. Goldman PLLC by using the contact form on this page or calling us at (904) 685-1200.