What Happens During a Deposition?
The purpose and process of a deposition
A deposition is part of the legal process of discovery. It involves the sharing of information, evidence, and testimony between both parties involved in a case before a trial begins. The sharing can take place in the form of documents, interrogatories (written statements), and depositions. According to the American Bar Association, “A deposition is an out-of-court statement given under oath by any person involved in the case. It is to be used at trial or in preparation for trial. It may be in the form of a written transcript, a videotape, or both.”
A deposition is the only form of discovery that involves a witness answering questions directly, rather than submitting documents or taking written statements.
There are two main purposes for a deposition:
- Find out what a witness knows about the case
- Preserve the witness’ testimony for trial
“The intent is to allow the parties to learn all of the facts before the trial so that no one is surprised once that witness is on the stand. Contrary to what countless movies and TV shows would have you believe, springing a surprise witness at the eleventh hour of a trial is regarded as unfair. By the time a trial begins, the parties should know who all of the witnesses will be and what they’ll say during testimony,” according to FindLaw.com.
It’s essential that both sides of the case are aware of what a witness knows or plans to say. For example, defendants have a right to know what will be said against them in court, so their attorney can prepare an adequate defense or rebuttal.
“Often a witness’s deposition will be taken by the opposing side and used to discredit the witness’s testimony at trial if the trial testimony varies from the testimony taken during the deposition,” according to The American Bar Association.
The process of taking a deposition
During a deposition, the witness will give sworn statements based on questions from attorneys. The answers are recorded by a court reporter and put into a transcript, which will form the basis of evidence and examination (and cross-examination) of the witness during the trial.
Unlike a trial, depositions don’t take place in a courtroom. They are generally conducted in an attorney’s office. According to FindLaw.com, “The attorneys will ask the witness, or deponent, a series of questions about facts and events related to the lawsuit with the entire deposition recorded word-for-word by a court reporter. The reporter is present throughout the session and will produce a transcript at a later time.”
Although the witness and attorneys are generally present in the same room, a deposition can be videotaped due to the illness of the witness or if he or she will not be available during the trial.
Attorneys for both sides are present during a deposition. For instance, in the case of a criminal trial, the prosecutor and defendant’s attorney would both be in the room. Following the oral examination, a cross-examination might take place by the opposing attorney. Even though attorneys may ask whatever questions necessary to get the answers they need, their role is reduced somewhat in a disposition.
“Attorneys for the deponent or parties to the lawsuit may make objections to some inquiries, but the deponent is usually obligated to answer all proper questions despite objections, which will get ruled on later since judges are not present at depositions,” according to FindLaw.com
The deposition process can take anywhere from a couple of hours to weeks, depending on the complexity of the case.
Depositions are an important part of the legal process. A trained court reporter is necessary in order for witness testimony to be transcribed and usable for trial. If you need a court reporter for an upcoming deposition, contact Boss Reporting today.