You can give testimony in criminal or civil cases even if you are in prison. In fact, if you get a subpoena, you will be required to testify. But because you are in prison, the process is a little different.
Can you give testimony in a case if you are in prison?
Yes. You can give testimony in a case if you are in prison. The court may call you at any time to appear. You can provide testimony as an eyewitness or a character witness. If you are an expert in some field of study, you can also give expert testimony.
But understand that lawyers can use your status as a prisoner against you. They can attack the credibility of your testimony based on your incarceration and criminal record. If they succeed, your testimony may not make a difference to the judge or the jury.
How do you get permission to leave prison to give testimony?
There is an official process to getting permission to leave prison to give testimony. To get your release, you need a writ of habeas corpus.
First, a prosecutor or other court official will make a request to transfer you. They will make this request in a letter. That letter should include the following information:
- Why you need to appear in court.
- The nature of the action.
- Which date the court requests your presence for.
- The name and phone number of the agency that will transport you.
- When you will return to your assigned prison.
- The name and location of where you’ll be held during proceedings.
Second, that same official should also provide a statement about how they plan to keep you safe and in custody. The statement should also show how they plan to return you to prison.
Third, the court must send a certified, sealed copy of the writ to your institution. Your prison cannot release you until they get this copy.
Finally, staff at your institution look at your documents and the authorities who sent them. They will look at the custody plan. After seeing all of this, they will decide whether or not to let you go to testify.
You should know that it is relatively rare that courts will ask for your testimony if you are in prison. They will look for alternative testimonies and sources of information first.
How will you get to court to testify?
If your institution approves the transfer, U.S. Marshals will transfer you from prison to provide testimony. They will take you from your institution to your next point of custody. But they can also decide to not transfer you. The details of your transfer will vary greatly depending on your circumstances. But U.S. Marshals handle these transfers just as they would if you transferred prisons for any other reason.
You can give testimony in a court case if you are in prison. But there is a long process to do so. If the court does request your presence, they must detail why they need you and how they plan to care for you while you are in their custody. A U.S. Marshal will handle your transportation if you need to leave prison to testify in court.