Contacting possible witnesses in advance of a court case?
April 28, 2012 6:24 PM   Subscribe

I was the victim of a hit & run while cycling home from work on Friday. Fortunately me and the bike are both unharmed and there were plenty of witnesses, two of whom in particular I would like to thank for their assistance. Given that a court case is possible, would it be inappropriate for me, as the victim, to contact them now to express my thanks?

Witness 1 called the police (my phone was out of power) in the immediate aftermath, and again when it later escalated (the driver eventually returned, and proceeded to behave in a threatening manner along with a baseball-bat wielding accomplice. Yup.)
Witness 2 caught the motorist's registration plate number, without which things may have panned out very differently, and sat with me for 20 minutes until the police arrived.
Both witnesses gave me their contact details and gave statements to the police. Both the driver and his pal were taken into custody.

Given that there is potential for this to go to court, would it be inappropriate for me to send a brief thank-you note to both witnesses given that they may be called to appear and give evidence? Would it be wiser to wait and see what, if anything, becomes of the case?

I am in the UK.
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I'd be concerned that, if the opposing lawyers found out you had contacted them, they may try to use this to discredit them somehow as witnesses.
posted by thelonius at 6:37 PM on April 28, 2012


I don't think it's necessary. Surely you thanked them at the time, and they will not expect to be contacted by you.
posted by acidic at 7:02 PM on April 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


I would also be concerned that contacting the witnesses could derail the court case. Perhaps contact them after the case is settled one way or the other, and try to find ways to pay it forward in the meantime?
posted by SakuraK at 7:09 PM on April 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


Here in the 'States, it would not at all be uncommon for counsel to ask a witness to describe their relationship with the parties. Sending any kind of gifts would definitely make it easier for opposing counsel to make it seem as though you were trying to curry favor or influence their testimony.
posted by gauche at 7:35 PM on April 28, 2012


Thank them after.
posted by batmonkey at 8:07 PM on April 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


No, it would not be a mistake to thank the people who helped you. Any attorney who tries to impeach them with the fact that you thanked them would be totally grasping at straws and it wouldn't amount to a hill of beans.

You don't have to stop being a normal, courteous person for fear of messing up a court case.
posted by jayder at 8:08 PM on April 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


hill of beans.

Or plate of beans, for that matter.
posted by jayder at 8:09 PM on April 28, 2012


I'm a lawyer, I'm not your lawyer. I don't think there's any harm whatsoever in sending a simple thank you note to the witnesses. Don't send a gift or anything like that. There is nothing in that action that any lawyer would WANT to impeach you on. And if they do? No jury is ever going to think less of you or somehow think the process is tainted because of a simple thank you note.

Or, what Jayder said ;-).
posted by Happydaz at 9:26 PM on April 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


IAAUKL. IANYL. I think as long as any thank-you is properly worded you'd be okay - so keep it along the lines of "Thank you for your kindness in stopping to help me the other day. I really appreciate it and don't know what I'd have done if you hadn't been there to help."

Don't mention the driver or the circumstances, don't even use the words "accident" or "hit and run" as the former can suggest a lack of fault and the latter an apportionment of blame, both of which could be unhelpful or even prejudicial to any court case.
posted by essexjan at 3:00 AM on April 29, 2012


IANAL - Anything that could be construed as valuable would be suspect, but the simple thank-you note gets the message across.
posted by chrisinseoul at 3:42 AM on April 29, 2012


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