Witnesses in most criminal cases will be served a subpoena to appear in court. The subpoena is a record for the Prosecutor that the witness was notified, and demonstrates to the Court that the State has made a good faith effort to proceed with the case. The subpoena places the witness under a legal obligation to appear at the listed date and time for the hearing, and to remain until the trial is completed or the witness is excused.
In a criminal case in the State of New Hampshire, the only “parties” to a case are the accused and the State of New Hampshire. Only the State of New Hampshire and the accused can file motions with the court in the criminal matter. If a witness is unavailable, it is critical that they notify the prosecutor so that a motion to reschedule can be filed, but the decision to reschedule is ultimately up to the Judge. Failing to be present at court on the date and time listed on a subpoena may result in criminal contempt charges, possible fines, jail time, and/or probation.
Witnesses should appear at least fifteen minutes before the listed trial time to review any statements which had been given to the Police and have any questions answered. If you arrive early, look for the Officer who investigated the incident, or the Prosecutor.
TRIAL DATE AND TIME
The dates and times of court trials are set by the Clerk of Court's office at the Lebanon Circuit Court. The Clerk sends a scheduling notice to the Police Department and other parties, and then the prosecutor’s office issues subpoenas to any non-law enforcement witnesses. The dates or times of a Court date can only be changed by the Judge after a motion is filed by either by the State or the accused.
There are times when a case does not proceed to trial at the time listed on the Court Docket. The delay is often a result of an earlier scheduled case taking more time than was anticipated by the Court. The Police Department has no control over these scenarios. These delays typically do not last very long without the Court making some accommodations, however there may be exceptions.
There are also times when a case does not proceed to trial because a non-trial resolution is reached just before trial. Typically, the prosecutor has advanced notice of plea agreements, and their office will notify witnesses prior to trial that they are released from their subpoenas. However, unfortunately in those cases that an agreement is reached shortly before trial begins, advanced notice is not possible.
There are no specific requirements for court attire. However, the Court is a professional environment and demands respect from all who enter. It is recommended that all who attend are well groomed and wear business, or business casual clothing. Additionally, while not required, it is recommended that arrangements for child care be made ahead of the date and time of trial.
It is possible that the Judge may order the sequestration of witnesses. The intent is to ensure that the testimony of one witness will not influence the testimony of another. If sequestration is ordered, each witness who may be called to give testimony in a trial will be instructed not to discuss his or her testimony or any aspect of the case with anybody, either before or after he or she testifies, until the trial is over. When sequestered, witnesses will not be allowed to observe any other testimony prior to their testimony. Violation of an order of sequestration may result in a mistrial, and/or criminal contempt charges against the violating witness.
Witnesses who are subpoenaed to appear in the Lebanon Circuit Court are allowed a witness fee, set by the State of New Hampshire, for each day or part of a day they are in attendance. The State also pays a mileage fee, set by the State of New Hampshire, round trip to the Courthouse. The witness fee and mileage allowance are combined in one check.
Upon arrival at Court, you will check in with the Court Bailiffs or at the Clerk's Office. You will need to fill out paperwork to ensure compensation. Once you are done testifying, you need to report back to the Clerk's Office. The Clerk will send your compensation request to the State of New Hampshire. Witnesses should expect several weeks before payment is received.
- Sit comfortably, but maintain good posture and an alert appearance.
- Tell only the truth about what you have personal knowledge of.
- Speak naturally and calmly in a distinct and clearly audible tone of voice. Describe the events of the case in the order in which they took place.
- Maintain a courteous attitude, self-control and personal composure. Avoid any impression of being contentious or biased. The use of "Your Honor" when responding to the Judge and "Sir or Ma'am" when answering the attorneys, is appropriate.
- Avoid making sarcastic or derogatory remarks, even if you feel baited to do so. Remaining calm and replying in a straight forward manner adds to your credibility.
- Respond to questions without expressing personal views or drawing conclusions.
- Do not volunteer information or go beyond the scope of the questions asked.
- Look directly at the person asking the question. If you do not hear or do not understand the question, request that it be repeated. Pause briefly and consider the question before answering.
- Do not guess! If you do not remember or do not know a particular fact, simply say so.
- Attorneys may object to a particular question or to certain testimony. When an objection is made, do not begin to answer or continue an answer until the objection is ruled on. Follow the instructions of the Judge.
- If you make a mistake in testimony, voluntarily correct the error as soon as possible.
VICTIMS – RIGHTS
Victims of certain offenses in the State of New Hampshire are entitled to additional rights than a typical witness. For more information, see http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/rsa/html/I/21-M/21-M-8-k.htm. If you are a victim pursuant to the laws of the State of New Hampshire, an advocate from the Grafton County Attorney’s Office or the Lebanon Prosecutor will reach out to you as soon as possible to update you on the status of the pending matter.