If your child is going to be a witness in a trial, it might be helpful to get some legal advice in advance of his or her testimony in order to ensure that both you and your child understand the risks and obligations that are at play.
When a witness testifies in court, they either swear on a religious document or they take an oath promising to tell the truth. This obligation -to tell the truth- is an important one. Often times young people are pressured by their peers not to “rat” on someone, or in trying to help a friend they fudge some of the more problematic details of what happened, but while lying to a teacher or to a parent may get you grounded as a kid, lying to a court can result in criminal charges. This means that your child, who was originally just a witness to someone else’s wrongdoing could ultimately be put in position where he or she is now facing an allegation of criminal wrongdoing themselves. Given that risk, and the potential penalties that could accompany such a charge, it is crucial that your child understand how seriously they need to take their promise to tell the truth.
Additionally, if your child has been properly served with a valid subpoena requiring them to attend court as a witness, a failure to do so could result in a warrant for their arrest. What is proper service and what is a valid warrant can depend on a number of factors. If your child receives a court subpoena, and you have questions, bring it to your lawyer’s office so that they can assist you.
While witness warrants and criminal charges for lying in court are rare, they are also serious, and the related consequences can be significant. Because of this, make sure your child understands how seriously he or she needs to take the situation. Ultimately, while questions may be the same, telling a judge happened is far different than telling a teacher or a parent.