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MD Witnesses at a Small Claims Trial

Witnesses are people who come to court to tell what they have seen or heard. These people should either be witnesses who saw what happened or experts on the subject matter of the claim involved.

Before you bring any witnesses to your trial, discuss the case with potential witnesses who have personal knowledge of the case, and decide who can provide evidence in your favor. Whether you're the plaintiff or the defendant, you may bring witnesses to your trial to support your story.

Subpoena

You can compel a witness to appear in court by serving a subpoena on that person. A subpoena is a command to appear at a certain time and place to give testimony regarding a certain matter. If requested, the person may have to provide documents.

If you believe someone can provide essential information but the person is unwilling to appear in court, ask the clerk of court to issue a witness subpoena compelling the person to appear. You will need to give the clerk the person's full name and address.

If you don't subpoena the witness and the witness doesn't appear at the trial, the judge will require you to have the trial without that witness. The judge won't let you come back later with more witnesses or more papers after the trial.

Expert Witnesses

An expert witness is someone who because of their education, training, skill or experience has more knowledge about a particular subject than the average person.

Examples of possible expert witnesses are:

  • Automobile mechanics
  • Automobile body workers
  • Carpenters
  • Painters

The Best Witnesses

Bring witnesses only if you know they will support you. Witnesses who are not friends or relatives may be more effective in proving your case. If your only witnesses are friends or family, you should still bring them but ask them to present themselves in a professional manner, be objective and not be emotional.

Talk to Witnesses before Trial

Always talk to your witnesses before trial. Your witnesses may not see or interpret the facts in the same way that you do, or they may have forgotten some of the important details.

Witness Order

Decide the order in which you will call your witnesses. During the proceedings, the judge may ask questions of any witness.

Don't Interrupt Witness Testimony

Even if you think information provided by a witness is inaccurate, don't interrupt a witness to clarify the information. Make notes about the information you believe is inaccurate. You will be given an opportunity to address those issues before the end of the proceeding.

Receipt of Witness Subpoena

A subpoena to appear as a witness is a court order and must be obeyed. Failure to appear in court in response to a subpoena could place you in contempt of court. The subpoena may contain information or instructions about the trial. You should try to follow these instructions as it may save you time.

The State's Attorneys' office for each county in Maryland has a witness assistance coordinator who can answer your questions and help you through the court process. Locate the State's Attorney for your jurisdiction at the Maryland State's Attorneys' Association Web site.

If you receive a subpoena, you may contact the person who had you served or their attorney for additional information on the matter.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • Do I need to have witnesses?
  • Can a witness testify by telephone?
  • What can I do if one of my witnesses changed their story and ended up telling lies during my hearing?
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