Compensation of Witnesses

The Rules of Professional Conduct and some laws or statutes (such as Title 18, Section 2001 of the United States Code – 18 U.S.C. 2001) make it impermissible to pay, offer to pay, or knowingly acquiesce in the payment of compensation to a witness when that payment or potential payment is contingent on (depends upon) the content of that person’s testimony or on the outcome of the case.

There are special rules and procedures for the compensation of expert witnesses, but with respect to non-experts, lawyers are permitted to advance, guarantee or acquiesce (allow their clients to advance or guarantee) in the payment of the following:

  1. Witness fees allowed by law or court rules.
  2. Out-of-pocket expenses reasonably incurred by a witness in attending or testifying, including reasonable travel and subsistence (meals) expense.
  3. Reasonable compensation for the value of time lost by the witness in attending any hearing, trial or proceeding.

General Comments: Witnesses who have received or will be receiving any such compensation should not hesitate to admit this if questioned in the proceedings. Lawyers should consider notifying opposing parties and/or the court itself in advance of payment of substantial expenses, depending on the circumstances. Witnesses cannot be paid for their testimony but can often be compensated for their time and expenses.

If you have any questions about these procedures – or about other topics such as how to best offer and pay rewards for information, consult an attorney experienced with these arrangements. Still have questions? Contact Attorney John Reilly by telephone 401-272-2800 or by e-mail.

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