Attorney’s Office

Frequently Asked Questions (Witness Assistance)

  • What is a Subpoena?

    A subpoena is an office court ordered requiring you to appear at the time and place it specifies, usually to provide testimony.  

  • What happens if I do not appear at the time and place specified in the subpoena?

    Failure to appear in district court constitutes contempt of court, which could possibly result in a warrant issued for your arrest, a fine up to $500 or imprisonment of up to 6 months

  • I have received a subpoena. Who can I call if I have questions?

    The Assistant County Attorney assigned to the case or their assistant.  There will be a telephone number listed at the bottom of your subpoena - call that number to speak with them directly.  If there is no number, call (515)286-3737 to find out who is assigned to the case. 

  • I have been subpoenaed to appear in court, but I cannot get off work. What should I do?

    Your employer is required by State law to allow you to testify in court, as long as you have a court ordered subpoena.  If your employer refuses to allow you time to testify, immediately call the prosecutor listed on your subpoena.

  • Will the defendant be there when I have to testify?

    Yes.  The defendant has a constitutional right to face their accuser and will be present at all court proceedings.

  • I am a witness in a case, and I have moved recently. Who should I notify of my new address?

    If you move or change your phone number, immediately contact the Assistant County Attorney assigned to the case.

  • What is a deposition?

    A witness’ statements, taken under oath, which are put into writing by a court reporter.   These statements are made out-of-court in the presence of Assistant County Attorney, the defendant and the defense attorney. 

  • Do I get compensated for appearing to testify?

    You are entitled to $5.00 for each half day and $10.00 for each full day that you appear to testify.  There may be a mileage allowance for witnesses.  After your appearance, a member of the County Attorney’s Office will write the total mileage on your subpoena and ask the judge to sign it.  You will take your subpoena to the Criminal Clerk of Court, Room 201, Polk County Courthouse for compensation. 

  • I am a witness in a case, and I am being threatened or harassed. What do I do?

    Tampering with witnesses and harassment are crimes.  Contact the local police department and the Assistant County Attorney assigned to your case.

  • Do I have to talk to the defense attorney, the defendant, or anyone else connected to the case?

    You are not required to talk to a defense attorney, the defendant, or anyone else connected to the case. If the defense wants your statement, they may subpoena you for a deposition at which time a member of the County Attorney's Office will be present. When you discuss the facts of the case you are involved with, always tell the truth.

  • Is there anything I should know when coming to court to be a witness?

    • Prepare:  Refresh your memory so you can avoid confusion.  Before testifying, picture the scene, the objects, the persons and what occurred.  Review all statements you provided to the police and if you were deposed, review your deposition. 
    • Dress Appropriately, Act Courteously:   Court rules specify that witnesses shall be properly attired.  Dress comfortably, but conservatively.  Be respectful and answer the questions asked.
    • Speak Clearly and Loudly:  Everyone in the courtroom must be able to hear distinctly what you have to say.  An inaudible voice or mumbling detracts from your testimony and may give the impression that you are not certain of what you are saying.  Don’t be afraid to speak up – you are not on trial.
    • Be Honest:  A trial is a serious and important matter.  The court wants the facts.

    Don’t exaggerate or try to slant your testimony.  Answer the questions asked to you by both the prosecutor and defense attorney. Tell the truth.

    • Answer all questions directly:   Follow this simple guide:
      • Listen carefully to the question.  Take time to think about your answer.
      • Answer the question asked, no more.
      • Speak distinctly and loud enough for the judge and jury to hear you.
      • If you do not know the answer to a question, say so.
      • Don’t try to answer a question you do not understand.  Ask that it be explained
      • Don’t argue with the attorneys
      • Sometimes, the court may limit certain testimony based on the rules of evidence or case law.  The prosecutor will inform you of this.  Follow what the prosecutor tells you.

    Above all, think before you speak and always speak the truth.

Contact Us

Polk County Attorney's Office
Polk County Justice Center
222 Fifth Avenue
Des Moines, IA 50309

Phone: (515) 286-3737
Fax: (515) 286-3428