Brian White | December 19, 2017 | Court
A deposition is a person’s sworn out-of-court testimony that is part of the discovery process during court case. Its’ purpose is to gather information to potentially be used in trial. If you take part in some form of litigation, a time may come when you will need to give a deposition. This tool provides necessary information to both parties in a trial, allowing each to build their cases. As the deponent (person making the deposition), you answer under oath and in the presence of your lawyer. This process does not occur in the courtroom. Read on to learn about deposition procedures, what might happen while acting as a deponent, and when cases require them.
During litigation, all parties can discover information through investigations and through interviews with witnesses or other interested parties. This formal process helps parties find all pertinent information for a specific case. With this information, the parties build their cases for presentation at trial. In some instances, discovery leads the parties to settle outside of court, saving on trial costs.
Discovery takes many forms, including subpoenas for documentation, interrogatories, and formal depositions from witnesses prior to trial.
Basics of a Deposition
While many parts of discovery simply result in documentation or hard evidence, deposition involves talking to a person and asking the individual questions pertaining to the case. A deposition serves two purposes: discovery of individual knowledge of events and preservation of oral testimony.
This process ensures both parties meet all potential witnesses and have detailed notes on everything the witness knows. Deposition gives them the chance to fully vet a witness’ account, regardless of whether that account helps or hurts a particular party’s case. The key lies in knowing, not cherry-picking, information.
Depositions also reveal the strengths and weaknesses of each parties’ case, allowing them to find ways to argue against them in trial.
What Happens During a Deposition?
Depositions take place in attorneys’ offices, not the courtroom. A court reporter, the only state official present, transcribes the meeting and presents this transcript in its final form. Beyond the deponent and the court reporter, lawyers from both parties in a case attend. Some deponents bring their own attorney who attends in an advisory role for the witness. Some offices choose to videotape a deposition if the witness might not be present at the trial.
The deponent will face several lines of questioning regarding facts or events connected to the case. Lawyers may ask much broader questions in this setting, whereas in court they must keep to the topic at hand. The deponent will not ask any questions, merely provide answers or testimony.
Objections may come from either team of lawyers or, on occasion, the deponent’s lawyer. The deponent usually must answer all questions regardless of these objections. A judge will rule on these questions later, with a few exceptions requiring immediate ruling.
When Must Depositions Happen?
Each case has different requirements for deposition. A case dealing strictly with legal issues often has no depositions, as evidence and testimony has no bearing on the trial. Cases that involve factual issues, that help prove a case’s particulars by means of testimony, will require depositions. Depending on how many witnesses there are, this process can take months; however, an individual deponent’s role shouldn’t last very long during that period.