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5 Tips for Writing a Witness Statement – Legal Reader

If something prevents you from appearing in court, you may be able to make a written statement instead. However, if you do not have a compelling reason to give written testimony, the court usually requires that you appear in person.


When you have to give a statement as a witness in a legal proceeding, it is generally preferred that you do so in person. However, this is not always possible. You may be indisposed because of illness or injury. Perhaps appearing in person would expose you to unnecessary danger, or maybe the distance you would have to travel is insurmountable.

Under circumstances such as these, the court may allow you to submit your testimony in the form of a written statement. Because the proceedings are formal, your witness statement should follow a certain format. Here are some tips for writing a statement the court will accept. 

1. Include Your Credentials

In this context, “credentials” refers to the reason that you have been asked to give testimony. In other words, you need to explain to the court why you have the standing to speak about a certain issue. For example, if you were an expert on solar panels asked to testify to the effectiveness of a certain model, you would describe the education and training you have received on photovoltaic technology.

Nevertheless, you do not necessarily need to be an expert to give testimony. If you witnessed an incident, all you have to say in your statement to establish your credentials is that you were present at the time and saw what happened. It is unnecessary to mention anything about your background unless it is relevant to your testimony.

2. Use First-Person Point of View

Because a court proceeding is formal, you may be tempted to describe the event in writing from a third-person point of view. However, as a personal statement that describes what you saw and heard, you should write about it from the first-person perspective, using pronouns such as “I” and “me.” Remember that if you were to give this testimony in court, you would respond to questions posed to you by the attorneys and/or judge. You would answer those questions in first person rather than third person, so it is appropriate to do the same in your written witness statement.

3. Make Your Writing Factual and Detailed

You make your written witness statement under penalty of perjury, just as you would if you were to give oral testimony. Therefore, it is important that you stick to the facts in your witness statement. Do not exaggerate and do not make any suppositions, i.e., guesses as to another person’s state of mind or ideas that you cannot prove one way or the other.

Writing with a fountain pen; image by Aaron Burden, via Unsplash.com.
Writing with a fountain pen; image by Aaron Burden, via Unsplash.com.

Any detail you can provide, no matter how inconsequential it may seem to you, may end up being significant. Therefore, describe what you witnessed in as much detail as possible while remaining factual. The court will likely forgive a genuine lapse in memory, but if there is reason to believe that you have purposely omitted significant details, that could get you into big trouble.

4. Provide Identifying Information

The court clerk has to handle a lot of paperwork pertaining to the different proceedings that happen on a daily basis. To prevent your witness statement from getting lost in the shuffle, you should include the case number and name of the case, if known, toward the top of your statement. At the very least, you should be able to include a date of the incident about which you are giving testimony. You should also include your own name, address, and phone number so that someone from the court can get in touch with you if necessary.

5. Include Your Oath

When you give testimony, you make an oath attesting to the truth and accuracy of the information you have to give. This step is not omitted when you give a written witness statement. It just means that you have to write down your oath and sign it to give credence to it. You also need to include the location and date that you sign it for purposes of later verification.

If something prevents you from appearing in court, you may be able to make a written statement instead. However, if you do not have a compelling reason to give written testimony, the court usually requires that you appear in person.

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