Banner for The Criminal Justice Systems: A Guide for Law Enforcement Officers and Expert Witnesses in Impaired Driving Cases

Law Enforcement Testimony

Guidelines for Testimony – What You Say and How You Say It

During direct testimony, the officer’s responsibility is to present the facts of the case. Keep in mind—the officer saw and smelled it and the judge and jury did not. The officer must paint a mental picture for the judge and jury. In order to do that, the officer should:

  1. Testify to what he observed using language geared for the lay person – in other words, don’t use jargon, acronyms, or abbreviations;
  2. Never guess at an answer – it’s okay to say, “I don’t know” if you don’t know; and
  3. Provide specific descriptive details concerning exactly what the suspect did or was not able to do and explain what these actions mean.

An officer’s testimony should NOT include:

  1. Testimony or evidence that has been excluded;
  2. Exaggerated testimony; or
  3. Testimony that can appear biased for or against the defendant.

Professional conduct during a trial is very important. Jurors focus on an officer’s demeanor as well as the content of the testimony. Avoid becoming agitated or taking personal issue with defense tactics – just stick to the facts. Remember: the minute you lose your temper, you lose your audience.

Personal appearance also matters. If you are a uniformed officer, wearing your uniform to court is usually preferable to street clothes. If in civilian clothes, wear dress pants and jacket— with tie, if male.