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#146 Giving testimony out of court

mp3 #146 Giving Testimony Out of Court (mp3 file)


Our courts have very heavy schedules. In order to save time during trials, some testimony is taken outside the courtroom. It is thereby possible to gain in advance of the trial as much information about the matter as possible. In many cases, this will eliminate controversy over some of the issues. Testimony taken outside the courtroom is called a "deposition." a deposition is a legal proceeding, very much like a court hearing, without a judge or a courtroom. If you are asked to give a deposition, you will have to swear to tell the truth. The oath you take has the same effect as if you are testifying in court. If you do not tell the truth, you can receive the same penalties as you would receive if you were testifying at a trial. A court reporter is present to record the proceedings.

Generally, a deposition consists of nothing more than questions by one or more lawyers to you, the deponent. The purpose is to find out what you know concerning the pending lawsuit. If you are a party to the lawsuit, the deposition will usually be scheduled at your convenience through your attorney. If you are only a witness, you may receive a subpoena for your appearance at a deposition.

The responses to the questions must be truthful and complete to the best of your ability. If you do not know the answer to a question, or if you are uncertain, you should then answer that you do not know or are uncertain. Any other answer will be taken as your statement of the truth as you know it.

If you do not understand the question completely, you should not answer it because you will be held responsible for the answer you give. You may ask to have the question repeated or rephrased so that you do understand it completely before you answer. If you do not understand English, arrangements will be made to have an interpreter present who will translate the questions into your native language.

You should remember that a deposition is an oral procedure and that you must respond to the questions loudly enough so everyone in the room can hear you. The court reporter is not allowed to take down nods, grunts, or gestures. You should also allow the question to be completed before you answer. Try not to anticipate the question. Your answer might be different at the end of the question than it would be half way through, and the attorney asking the questions will appreciate not being interrupted. By not interrupting, you also assist the court reporter who cannot record two people talking at the same time.

When the deposition is completed it will be typed and placed in a booklet form. You will be given the original and asked to review it and make any changes or corrections which you think are necessary in any of the answers. You have a right to change or correct any answers given. However, if you make a change or correction, the fact that you have done so can be commented upon in court and you have to explain why your answer was changed.

If possible, you should avoid taking medication, drugs or alcohol before a deposition. Such items can interfere with your ability to respond to questions and make the deposition unsuccessful.

If you are a party to the proceeding in which your deposition is to be taken, and if you have an attorney, your attorney will undoubtedly discuss the nature of a deposition with you in more detail before it is taken. He may also wish to review with you, before the deposition is taken, what you know about the case and what questions may be asked. Your attorney will be present at the deposition and may object to certain questions. If he does object, do not answer the question until he instructs you to do so.

Your attorney will also advise you not to volunteer information which has not been asked for. If the question calls for a "yes" or a "no" answer, then that is the only answer that should be given. If the attorney asking the questions wants more information, he will ask for it. This advice is designed to keep the record clear, simple, and relevant to the issues of the case. Your cooperation will be appreciated.

If you are not a party to the deposition and have some further questions concerning a deposition, of course, you may consult your own attorney, or you may contact in person or by telephone your local bar association either for further printed material concerning depositions or for a reference to an attorney with whom you can consult.

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