Attending Court

What to Know Before Attending Criminal or Juvenile Court

The law requires that all victims and witnesses be treated with dignity, respect, courtesy and sensitivity. The rights of victims and witnesses are to be honored and protected.

What should I do if I receive a subpoena?

A subpoena is a court order. When you receive a subpoena you must go to court on the date and at the time shown on the subpoena. You may ask to be placed "on call," which means you do not have to appear in court at the time noted on the subpoena, but you agree to come to court within a specific amount of time after being contacted. Failure to appear could result in a warrant for your arrest. For more information regarding "on call" status, please contact the witness coordinator at the phone number on your subpoena or call the District Attorney's Bureau of Victim Services at (800) 380-3811.

What should I know before I go to court?

Leave your home early enough to allow enough time for travel, traffic, parking, court security screening and elevators.

Everyone entering a courthouse must go through the court security screening. The following items are not allowed in courthouses: guns, knives, glass containers (such as juice bottles), metal utensils, scissors, nail clippers, metal knitting needles, weapons or any other sharp objects.

What should I wear?

Do not wear shorts, tank tops, clothing that shows your stomach, beachwear, flip-flops or clothing with inappropriate words or signs. Do not wear buttons or carry signs having to do with the case without discussing it first with the deputy district attorney.

How should I conduct myself at the courthouse?

To make sure that nothing you do has a negative impact on the case:

  • Never attempt to talk to or communicate with anyone who has a "Juror" badge.

  • Do not talk about the case within hearing distance of a juror.

  • Turn off cell phones and other electronic devices while in the courtroom.

  • Leave drinks, food and gum outside the courtroom.

  • Smoking is not permitted in any courthouse.

  • While in the courtroom, never attempt to talk to or communicate with the accused person. 

  • Wait until the jury exits before leaving the courtroom unless otherwise directed.

What should I do if I have safety concerns?

Intimidating or harassing a victim or witness is a crime. If there is an immediate threat, call 911. You may also call the law enforcement agency where the incident occurred. If you have concerns about your safety while in court, notify the Sheriff’s Department in the courthouse or the bailiff in the courtroom and the deputy district attorney or victim services representative.

What if I am contacted by someone other than a deputy district attorney or the police for an interview or to give a statement?

Anyone contacting you about the case should clearly identify themselves and their role in the criminal justice system (such as, a representative of the District Attorney's Office, the law enforcement agency or the accused person). Be truthful whenever speaking to anyone about the case. Victims and witnesses have a right to refuse to talk to anyone, including the accused person, their attorney or anyone acting on their behalf. Victims and witnesses also can set reasonable limits on any conversation they have with anyone seeking to interview or obtain a statement from them, including the accused person or their representative.

It is best not to discuss the facts of the case with any other witnesses, even if they are friends or family members.

What happens when I testify in court?

Every witness must take an oath to tell the truth. When any witness testifies, both sides will ask questions. Attorneys may ask about prior statements you made to police, statements by other witnesses, records they obtained or statements by you that appeared in the media or social media. The following are guidelines for testifying in court:

  • Be truthful. Do not exaggerate your testimony.

  • If you do not understand a question, ask that it be repeated or explained.

  • Answer the question asked. Do not volunteer additional information.

  • Do not guess.

  • If an attorney objects to a question asked by another attorney, wait until the judge tells you whether to answer the question.

  • Try to avoid distracting mannerisms such as yawning, nail-biting, laughing or facial expressions like eye-rolling.

What if my boss doesn't want me to come to court?

It is against the law for an employer to fire or harass an employee who takes time off from work to go to court because of a subpoena. If there is an issue, please contact the District Attorney’s Bureau Victim Services at (800) 380-3811.

What if I need a special accommodation?

Witnesses who need American Sign Language, a TDD/TTY or who have mobility issues should advise the witness assistant at the contact number listed on the subpoena or the Bureau of Victim Services at (800) 380-3811


Many informational pamphlets are available on the Los Angeles County District Attorney's website including: Crime Victims - Know Your RightsNavigating the Criminal Justice SystemMarsy's Law (Victims' Constitutional Rights); and Families Surviving Criminal Homicide.


Bureau of Victim Services
Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office

1000 South Fremont Avenue
Unit 36, Bldg. A9E, Suite E9150
Alhambra, CA 91803
Phone: (626) 514-1300
(800) 380-3811