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Witness Notification/Subpoenas

The Witness Notification Unit is responsible for coordinating the appearance of witnesses subpoenaed for court testimony. Unit staff works very closely with prosecuting attorneys and investigators in their coordination efforts. The unit is a very important contributor to the prosecution function. Below are frequently asked questions with answers that may be helpful to you if you receive a subpoena

    What should I do when I receive a subpoena?
    Immediately contact the District Attorney's Witness Notification Unit at (916) 543-8016 and provide them with a telephone number where you can be reached for updates on court scheduling and location. Court cases may be cancelled, delayed, or continued, and it is important for Witness Notification to be able to contact you to avoid unnecessary appearances. If you fail to provide Witness Notification with updated contact numbers, you may be required to attend multiple court appearances and be ordered back to court. Note: You must call in each time you receive a new subpoena to confirm receipt of the updated information.

    What will happen if I don't appear?
    Failure to appear in response to a subpoena may result in the Court issuing a warrant for your arrest, and may be punishable by fines and/or jail. The Courts do not look kindly at having to reschedule cases and inconveniencing all of the involved parties and other witness because of the failure of a witness to appear as ordered.

    I already gave a statement. Why do I have to appear in Court?
    Rules of evidence and fair trial procedures require that an accused person must have an opportunity, through his or her attorney, to ask questions of witnesses.

    What if I don't want to get involved or "take sides" in the matter?
    Either the prosecution or the defense may subpoena you because your testimony is important to one or both parties. When you appear and testify truthfully you are not "taking sides" with either the prosecution or the defense, regardless of which party issues the subpoena.

    How can my testimony make a difference?
    People sometimes believe that they have very little to offer in a case and wonder why they have been subpoenaed. Court cases are governed by rather strict rules of evidence and procedure. Physical evidence and the testimony of witnesses are all pieces of a puzzle. All of the pieces, no matter how small, are important to complete the picture. Your testimony is important and may ultimately affect the outcome of the case.

    I have never testified in Court and I'm very nervous.
    It is very natural for you to be nervous. The fact is, everybody in the courtroom is nervous to one degree or another. Below are some tips that will help you to control your nervousness and make your testimony clearer to the Court and jury.

    • Always tell the truth.
    • If you don't know the answer, say so. Do not guess or speculate.
    • Speak clearly and loud enough so everyone can hear your answer.
    • Listen closely to the attorney's question and pause a moment to consider your answer before speaking.
    • If you don't understand the question, tell the attorney.
    • Verbally answer questions with yes or no rather than nodding or shaking your head. Non-verbal responses cannot be transcribed by the court reporter.
    • Answer only the question asked. Don't give additional information until asked.
    • Be respectful to the attorneys and the judge. Don't argue; just truthfully answer the question to the best of your ability.
    • If you hear the word "objection" from an attorney, stop your answer and wait until the judge directs you to continue or discontinue your answer.
    • Court testimony is a solemn and serious duty. Please dress appropriately.