Witness Assistance

 UPDATED: November 8, 2018 

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Witness Hotline

Jody Strang 
Jody Strang
Victim-Witness Coordinator

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If you have to testify

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Directions to the Courthouse

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Witness FAQs


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The direct-dial phone number to speak with someone in our Victim-Witness Unit is
(517) 543-4835


The Eaton County Victim-Witness Assistance Service acts as a liaison between crime victims and witnesses, and the criminal justice system.

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Charlotte / Lansing
(517) 543-0738
Being called to testify may not be convenient. Your patience and cooperation make the criminal justice system work. If you have been served with a subpoena on behalf of this office, call the phone numbers listed above after 5:00 p.m. the evening before the date you are to appear in court. A tape recording will announce if witnesses are still needed in court the following day on your case. This information could help you avoid an unnecessary trip to the Courthouse. Our hotline has been a very successful tool for thousands of witnesses avoiding unnecessary court appearances each year.





The Eaton County Courthouse is located amidst several other County buildings on the northern edge of Charlotte, off of M-50. The simplest route to the County complex from outside of the immediate Charlotte area is via I-69, which provides three off-ramps to Charlotte.

From all directions: take I-69 to Charlotte exit #61 (Lansing Road). Turn north on Lansing Rd. to traffic light at Packard (Wal-Mart, Applebee's & car dealership adjacent). Turn left on Packard, drive 1½ mi. to stop sign at Cochran Rd/M-50. Turn right on Cochran/M-50, then left at the first street (Courthouse Dr.) approx. 100 yds. north of Packard. Follow Courthouse Dr. to Eaton County governmental complex. County Courthouse is the largest building to the left, with the clock tower. Park in front and enter at the doorway by the clock tower.

Alternate route from the west (including Grand Rapids): Take I-96 east to M-66 south to M-50/M-43 east, then follow M-50 south to Charlotte (approx. 25 miles). Shortly after Cochran Rd. merges into M-50, turn right on Courthouse Dr. (If you take M-50/Cochran as far as Packard Hwy. on your left, and past the "Welcome to Charlotte" sign, you've gone 100 yds. too far, so turn right at Beech St., approx. ¼ mi. past Packard, and follow Beech back to the Eaton County governmental complex.)

Alternate route from Battle Creek: If you do not take I-94 east to I-69 north to exit #61, as outlined above ... Drive M-66 to M-79 from Battle Creek to Charlotte. Shortly after you pass Charlotte High School, turn right at the traffic light at Lawrence, then turn left at Cochran/M-50 (at the old Courthouse building). Drive approximately 1½ miles to Courthouse Dr. (just north of Packard Hwy.), turn left on Courthouse Dr. and follow it back to the Courthouse building.

Alternate route from Jackson: if you do not take I-94 west to I-69 north to exit #61, as outlined above ... Drive M-50 north from Jackson, through Eaton Rapids, to Charlotte. Shortly after it crosses I-69 and enters the Charlotte city limits, M-50 takes a right-hand turn at Cochran. Drive through downtown Charlotte past the old Courthouse at Lawrence & Cochran. Drive approximately 1½ miles to Courthouse Dr. (just north of Packard Hwy.), turn left on Courthouse Dr. and follow it back to the Courthouse building.

compass iconMap of Charlotte!More maps are available at MapBlast, MapQuest & Maps On Us.

[Most web maps direct you to the Eaton County government complex from M-50/Cochran Ave. via Beech St., which runs parallel to Courthouse Dr., a newer access road to the north.]


Eaton County Government Complex map 


sun and cloud icon Weather forecasts: Check out The Weather Channel's or Intellicast's weather forecasts for the Lansing/Charlotte area.


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gold ball Tell the truth!  This is the single most important advice any witness should remember.

gold ballDress neatly! A neat appearance and proper dress in court give an important first, and lasting, impression.

gold ballConduct yourself in a dignified manner! The trial of a criminal case is a serious matter.

gold ball Be prepared! You should know days or weeks ahead of time that you will be testifying in court. Think about the incident and what happened so that you can recall the details accurately when you are asked in court. If you need help remembering these details, write the facts down. If you have already written a statement for the police, ask the Assistant Prosecutor for a copy; reading it may jog your memory on some details. Think ahead of time about the answers you will give to the questions you expect will be asked.

gold ball Do not try to memorize what you will say in court. Jurors are hesitant to believe testimony that sounds "scripted". Also, the lawyers' questions may not coincide with your expected answers.

gold ball Stick to the facts! The Judge or jury only wants to hear the facts as you know them to be, not what someone else told you.

gold ball Relax ... speak clearly! You have nothing to fear when giving true answers. When you are asked questions, give your answer as clearly as possible.

gold ball Expect to be questioned by several people. One of the basic rules in a criminal case is that both sides have a chance to question every witness. Questions asked by both sides have the same goal --- to find out what is true.

gold ball Do not lose your temper. Be courteous. Don't let the defense lawyer upset you. It may seem at times that he is trying to pin you down, but he has the right to test how many of the facts you know and accurately remember.

gold ball Don't start to answer a question until the question is finished. If you haven't yet heard the entire question, you don't really know what you're being asked. Don't "jump the gun" by answering what you think the question will be (when it is finished).

gold ball Think about your answer before you give it. Your every word counts. Be descriptive. Be accurate. Vague or inconsistent responses give other people a chance to (mis)interpret what you meant your answer to be.

gold ball Answer all questions to the point. If the question calls for a short answer, give a short answer; if you need to explain, explain.

gold ball Answer only the question asked. Do not volunteer additional information.

gold ballDon't exaggerate or guess! If you don't know the answer to a question, say so --- If you don't remember the information that you are asked about, say so.

gold ballAnswer the questions verbally. Your testimony is being recorded (either tape recorded or written down). No head shakes or head nods, or "uh-huh" / "uh-uh" instead of saying "yes" / "no"!

gold ball Look at the jurors and speak to them when testifying. Jurors are ordinary people, like yourself. They consider attitude, facial expressions, and body language when evaluating testimony.

gold ball If you don't understand or didn't hear the question, ask that it be explained or repeated.

gold ball If your answer was not correctly stated, correct it immediately.

gold ball Never attempt to talk to a juror about the case or any other matter while the case is being tried. This includes chance meetings during recesses, in hallways, at lunch, or any other place.

gold ball If either lawyer raises an objection, stop speaking at once! After the Judge has ruled, you will be instructed whether to continue.

gold ball The Prosecuting Attorney's Office will assist you with any questions you may have prior to your court appearance.


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(Frequently Asked Questions)

Why am I a witness? I didn't see the crime occur.

Witnesses are not limited to "eye witnesses". You may have seen or heard the crime happen or may know something about it. You may also know something about a piece of evidence, or may know something that contradicts another witness' testimony.

You may not think that what you know about the case is very significant; however, small pieces of information are often required to determine what really happened. If you wonder "why" you are testifying in a particular case, ask the Assistant Prosecutor handling it (or our Witness Coordinator); there is probably a common-sense reason.

Your presence and willingness to testify may be the deciding factor in determining what will be done in the case. Many defendants hope that you or other witnesses will not show up. Your mere presence at the Courthouse before the trial may cause the defendant to plead guilty.

What if someone threatens me?

Concerns about your well-being and safety after being victimized or witnessing a crime are normal. If you have any fears or receive any threats concerning your involvement in a case, you should immediately contact the law enforcement agency that investigated the case, or the Prosecuting Attorney's Office. In an emergency situation, call 911. Do so as soon as possible so that the threats can be documented and appropriate action taken. There are laws to protect you against people who attempt to bribe, intimidate, threaten, or harass you.

What if the defense attorney contacts me?

In representing a client, a defense attorney may contact you and want to talk to you about the case. Keep in mind that you do not have to talk to anyone about the crime, including the defense attorney or their investigator prior to testifying in court. If you choose to do so, always request proper identification and an explanation of the purpose of the interview. If you have any concerns about talking with a defense attorney or their investigator, you are encouraged to contact the Assistant Prosecuting Attorney in charge of your case and to have him/her with you at the time of the interview.

Do I have to testify in front of the defendant?

The defendant must be present in court to hear what all the witnesses say about him. The lawyer for the defendant is called the defense attorney and will ask you questions after the Assistant Prosecuting Attorney does.

Who will be with me in court?

You may bring friends or relatives with you to court, and they can probably sit in the courtroom while you testify, but they cannot 'help you answer a question' (verbal or non-verbal cues to you). If they are also a witness and have not yet testified, they will generally have to wait outside the courtroom for their turn -- this is called "sequestration".) Our Victim/Witness Advocate may also be with you, if you request.

How long will I be at court?

Your court room time, while actually testifying, may not take long; it depends upon many factors. Most of the time you will just be waiting for your turn to testify. You and your family and friends are encouraged to bring a book or magazine to read while you wait.

How many times will I have to appear in court?

No one can tell in advance how many times or how long you will have to be in court. The process of justice takes time. The number of times you may be called to appear in court and the delays you may encounter are the result of many factors, including pre-trial motions or other scheduled events with your case, or congestion on the judge's court calendar.

The stages involved in processing a criminal case are summarized on our Anatomy of a Prosecution page. In general, your first and only appearance for misdemeanor offenses will be for the actual trial. In a felony case, the first time you appear as a witness may be for the preliminary examination. On rare occasions, pre-trial motions by the defense attorney or by the prosecuting attorney may require additional hearings before the trial begins, which may require witness testimony.

What if my employer won't let me come to court?

If you are lawfully subpoenaed to court, an employer cannot prevent court attendance. When appropriate, the Prosecuting Attorney's Office will contact your employer to discuss the importance of your role as a witness. We can also provide you with a note, on our letterhead, confirming the days/hours when you were in court.

Can I get witness fees whether or not I attend on the date stated in the subpoena?
What if I can't attend on the date stated in the subpoena?

Whether a witness receives any witness fee is within the discretion of the court. A court can order that you receive witness fees ($6 per morning or afternoon court session that you are ordered to attend), plus mileage ($0.10 per mile, round trip). If you have a date conflict, you should contact our Witness Coordinator, Witness Hotline (517-543-4835) immediately to discuss your conflict. In some cases, the Prosecuting Attorney handling the case can put you "on call" (so that you can go to work or school on the day you are subpoenaed, and you will be called at a pre-arranged phone number an hour or so before you are needed in court). Witnesses receive witness fees and mileage only when they appear in court at the scheduled time. You will not receive a witness fee or mileage if your case (or your individual appearance) was "called off" or if you do not appear.

Does the Prosecuting Attorney's office pay my witness fee? Am I paid in cash?

All witness fee payments are made by check, through the court handling your case.

How do I know if my case has been "called off"?

Call our Witness Hotline.

I was subpoenaed by the defendant, not the prosecutor. Does this change anything?

Our Witness Assistance program helps the witnesses that the Prosecutor's office subpoenas to court, not witnesses whom the defendant subpoenas.

What if I need an interpreter?

Foreign language interpreters and interpreters for the hearing and/or speech impaired are available. If you are in need of interpreting services while in attendance at court, contact the Prosecuting Attorney Victim/Witness Coordinator as soon as possible.  


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