Depositions: Definition, Purpose, and Preparation
Depositions form a critical part of the discovery process in any legal case, providing a formal setting for parties to gather evidence and articulate their case long before stepping into the courtroom.
This article delves into the concept of depositions by exploring their definition, the intent behind them, and how to effectively prepare for one.
If you or a loved one find yourself involved in a legal matter and are faced with the prospect of attending a deposition, it is important to consult a qualified and experienced lawyer for guidance.
The Defenders is a criminal defense firm with offices in Las Vegas and Reno. Our team of experienced attorneys has represented thousands of clients over the years and is committed to providing our clients with the best possible defense. Contact our office today for a free case evaluation.
What Is a Deposition?
When we think of depositions, we may think of stuff we see on television of a person being questioned in a small room either being videotaped or audio recorded as they answer questions regarding a particular matter.
You usually only see the person being questioned and not usually the attorney asking the questions.
A deposition is a formal interview under oath of a witness who will testify at a trial.
Depositions are very similar to being questioned on the witness stand during a criminal proceeding in Nevada in that the witness is:
- Under oath
- Being examined and cross-examined
- Can be represented by their attorney
Depositions are very formal proceedings just as formal as actually being in court.
A judge will approve a deposition and will provide the time, place and people that are allowed to attend the deposition.
A person who is being deposed or the deponent must be provided with reasonable notice.
If the prosecution is asking for the deposition they must provide sufficient information to your attorney so that your defense lawyer can prepare cross-examination questions.
If you are the defendant in a criminal case, you have the right to be present at the deposition (in most cases) and be able to speak with your lawyer during the deposition proceedings.
What Happens During a Deposition
At a deposition, the person being deposed is asked questions by both the lawyer for the plaintiff and the defense.
The witness must answer all questions truthfully and to the best of their knowledge or face perjury charges.
A court reporter or recorder is usually present to take down testimony and enter it into the record.
During a deposition, attorneys can ask any question that is relevant to the case.
The deponent may be asked to review documents related to the case, such as contracts, emails, and other documents that are in evidence.
What is the Purpose of a Deposition?
Depositions provide an opportunity for attorneys to gather information about a legal matter or case before it goes to trial.
It allows lawyers to evaluate the testimony of potential witnesses, identify any discrepancies or inconsistencies in testimony, and ascertain the facts of the case.
Depositions are also used to gain an understanding of how a witness will behave on the stand during trial and can be used to impeach a witness’s credibility if necessary.
When Does A Deposition Become Witness Testimony
Depositions are rarely used as evidence in Nevada criminal trials because the courts prefer witness testimony.
If however, a witness cannot appear in person, a judge may admit to evidence the transcripts of a past deposition.
There are six circumstances where a witness’s past deposition comes into evidence during a criminal trial.
- The witness passed away before the trial
- The witness became mentally ill prior to the trial
- The witness cannot attend the trial due to illness or injury
- The witness is not a Nevada resident
- The witness cannot be compelled to testify
- The witness does give testimony at trial that contradicts what was previously recorded during a deposition. Both the prosecution and defense want the deposition admitted to evidence to prove the witness’s lack of credibility.
When Do Videotaped Depositions Take The Place Of Live Trial Testimony?
In some cases, topics are very sensitive and a judge may allow a videotaped deposition instead of live testimony at a trial.
If the following occurs, then a video deposition will be allowed.
- The witness is under the age of 14, or
- Victims of sexual abuse
- Victims of sex trafficking
In sex trafficking cases, the judge will presume good cause for videotaped depositions for victims of sex trafficking.
A justice of the peace or a district court judge must preside over videotaped depositions.
The defendant must be able to see and hear everything during the videotaped deposition, usually via a video monitor, you also must be able to communicate with your attorney during this deposition.
Can I Request Depositions In Advance Of My Criminal Trial?
Both the prosecution and the defense can request depositions of a witness if their testimony is material to your case and they are:
- At least 70 years old
- Physically or mentally disabled, or
- Unable to attend the trial
If a witness refuses to submit to appear for a deposition or refuses to testify at trial a judge can direct a witness to jail and to remain in custody until they submit to a deposition.
How Can My Attorney Help Me During Witness Depositions?
If a witness in a criminal case is giving a deposition, your criminal defense attorney can:
- Prepare all questions to ask the witness during the deposition and avoid topics that might not be relevant or would be detrimental to your defense
- Gather important testimony from a witness who cannot testify at trial or offer contradictory statements during trial
- Guide the witness answers to reflect the person that you are and minimize any incriminating statements about you
- Ensure that the prosecution is following laws and procedures during the deposition process
A good defense attorney can also look to have deposition testimony that is damaging suppressed as evidence during trial using a motion to suppress evidence.
The Defenders Can Help
Preparing for a deposition can be complicated, as well as knowing what witnesses to be deposed.
You need to understand the rules of criminal procedure but also that you make the correct choices when determining the line of questioning in a deposition and who gets deposed.
If you are the defendant in a case and deposed witnesses will be part of your criminal trial or you’re a witness in a trial and are subpoenaed to testify in a criminal court proceeding in Nevada, you’ll need to be prepared to answer all questions asked at a deposition while not incriminating yourself or giving answers that can be contradicted in court.
The Defenders are an experienced legal team in Las Vegas and the surrounding areas.
Our legal team understands the rules of depositions and as a defendant are taking advantage of the opportunity to depose witnesses during pre-trial preparation.
We will ensure we ask the right questions and will do everything in our power to help our clients by answering the prosecution’s questions and building a strong defense for our clients.
As part of our services to our clients, we can assist you in understanding and preparing questions for depositions.
We are also able to depose trial witnesses for you as part of your defense strategy and can ask the court to suppress a deposition that is unfavorable to you.
Why Should You Hire Our Criminal Defense Team
Most people never see the inside of a courtroom so having knowledge of the legal system simply makes no sense.
We often become armchair lawyers by watching trials on television or court cases on fictional TV.
But when a criminal case affects you and you are the defendant in a criminal case the need for legal knowledge becomes very important.
If you have been charged with a crime or are a material witness to a crime then you should hire a lawyer with deposition experience.
A criminal defense attorney will apply their skills and years of experience to your particular case since each case is different.
Being deposed as either a defendant or a material witness is just like taking the stand in a trial, you are under oath and can be questioned by both sides.
Depositions can be used as evidence later at trial so having a lawyer who can help you navigate what will happen at a deposition and how it will ultimately affect your case is important in any court proceeding either criminal or civil.
If you have been charged with a crime or have been asked to testify at a deposition you should speak with an attorney before submitting to the questions at a deposition, call The Defenders today.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a deposition?
A deposition is a sworn statement taken as part of a legal proceeding, and can be used to prove or disprove facts in the case. It is an opportunity for both sides to question witnesses and gather evidence before trial. The witness being deposed will answer questions under oath in front of a court reporter who records everything that is said for use at trial.
How long do depositions last?
Depositions can last anywhere from a few hours to an entire day depending on the complexity of the case and the number of witnesses being deposed.
Are depositions public records?
Depositions are not generally public records, but can become part of the court record if they are introduced into evidence at trial.
Who can be deposed?
Any person who has knowledge related to the case that is material to the proceedings can be deposed, including witnesses, experts, parties, and any other persons with relevant information.
What happens during a deposition?
During a deposition, both sides will ask questions of the witness under oath in order to gather evidence for their case. The questions can range from simple matters such as dates and times, to more complex issues such as opinions or expert testimony. A court reporter is present to record the proceedings and ensure everything said is accurately captured for future use at trial.
What are the potential consequences of a deposition?
The potential consequences of a deposition vary depending on the situation. In criminal cases, the testimony given by the witness could be used as evidence against the defendant. In civil cases, a deposition can be used to establish facts and prove liability or damages. It is important to understand that anything you say during a deposition can be used at trial, so it is always best to consult with an attorney before submitting to questioning.