Have You Been Subpoenaed to Testify at a Deposition, Arbitration, or Trial?

Have You Been Subpoenaed to Testify at a Deposition, Arbitration, or Trial?

We have all watched legal dramas on television where someone swears to “Tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth” before they testify in a legal proceeding.  If you have actually experienced this yourself, you may have testified as a witness or party to a deposition, arbitration, or trial in Oregon or elsewhere.

In Oregon, a similar oath or affirmation for witnesses is set forth by statute and is designed to be administered by the court reporter, judge, or court clerk to all witnesses prior to providing testimony in such proceedings.  The Oregon statute is set forth here: https://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/40.320

Why is this done?  Well, there are two reasons.  First, the oath or affirmation is designed to instill and impress upon the witness the seriousness to testify truthfully.  The second reason relates to the first reason and provides a legal remedy if a witness knowingly fails to testify truthfully despite this oath or affirmation.   That remedy is “perjury”.  In Oregon, the crime of perjury is punishable as a class C Felony.  Perjury is therefore a big “No, No” if you want to stay on the right and unlocked side of prison bars.  See: https://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/162.065

Therefore, if you are a witness in any legal proceeding where you take an oath or affirmation to tell the truth, you should consider your legal obligations very seriously and never lie or knowingly make a false statement.  You should also do you best to not speculate or guess if you are uncertain about any matters you may be called to testify about.  Always listen to the question asked and respond to each question as best as you can.  If you are ever unclear about any question, you should ask the person asking you the question to repeat the question until you understand what is being asked and before you answer.  There is also a risk you could implicate yourself in criminal matters depending on the nature of any proceeding, so you should understand your Constitutional right against self-incrimination and also potential privileges that may apply to you to limit your required testimony despite the oath or affirmation.  An attorney can help you understand these complex issues before you testify.

By following these general guidelines, you will respond to questions appropriately and in a manner that does not put you at personal, legal risk.  You will also make a good witness.  Having a lawyer prepare you prior to testifying will make your involvement in that process less stressful, smoother, and potentially less risky.

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