How to draft a witness statement

Written by abby lane
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How to draft a witness statement
Inaccuracy in any legal documents can have terrible consequences. (Comstock/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

If you witnessed pertinent events, you may be asked to give a witness statement for civil or criminal litigation. You may be asked to draft the statement yourself, or an attorney may write the statement for you. In some cases, your statement will replace actual testimony in court, so it is important to take the time and expend the effort to create a well-drafted, complete statement. With careful preparation and planning, your witness statement will provide all of the necessary information.

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  1. 1

    Carefully reflect on the event you witnessed. Before you sit down to write your witness statement, take some time to reflect on the event in question. Take general notes about the event and create a simple timeline on a separate sheet of paper. Do this as close in time to the event as possible.

  2. 2

    Recall the relevant facts. In your witness statement, you should describe who was present at the event, what happened and where the event occurred. A witness statement is a statement of facts and not opinion, so be aware of any elements of the event you may have a bias about. Do not try to ascribe motives to any of the players in your witness statement; simply recall the event as you remember it. Make a more detailed timeline based on your recollection of the facts.

  3. 3

    Complete the court-provided witness statement form, if provided. Sometimes you will be given a form to create your witness statement. Follow the instructions on the form carefully. The contents of witness statement forms vary by jurisdiction.

  4. 4

    Pair up the timeline with the events. The clearest witness statements are written in chronological order. Start with relevant happenings before the event in question and finish at the close of the event. Create time markers within your witness statement like months, weeks, days or hours. Consult a calendar as necessary.

  5. 5

    Create diagrams and maps. Depending on the event in question, you may be asked to draw a map or diagram related to the event. Diagramming and mapping may also help you write your witness statement. You do not have to be an artist to create a useful map or diagram. Make the image as simple as possible and label the parts of the image as necessary. Have other persons look at your diagram or map and ask if they find it legible.

  6. 6

    Write your witness statement in your own handwriting or on a word processor. Do not make paragraphs in your witness statement; just follow one sentence with another. Provide your full legal name, date of birth and contact information on the witness statement.

  7. 7

    Initial and sign the witness statement. Initial before the first word and after the last word on every page. Initial after any erasure or text that is marked out. If there are any obvious gaps on the page, initial in those areas as well. Sign and date at the end of the statement.

  8. 8

    Make a copy of the witness statement for your records.

  9. 9

    Submit the witness statement to the court or the party who requested the statement.

Tips and warnings

  • Never lie in a witness statement. Lying in a witness statement is tantamount to perjury and carries serious consequences.
  • If English is not your first language, ask for the assistance of a neutral translator in drafting your statement or write the statement in your first language.
  • Never sign a witness statement drafted by another person unless you have read it carefully and completely.

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