At a deposition, witnesses answer lawyers’ questions under oath; you should answer truthfully, but do not speculate, and talk to your lawyer beforehand about how to avoid incriminating yourself.
Witnesses testify under oath at civil and criminal trials, but that is not the only way that the court can obtain sworn testimony to show to the jury at trial. Some witnesses present written statements known as affidavits; these contain the same promise of truthfulness as in-person testimony. In other instances, witnesses provide testimony in person, but they do not do it at the trial. A deposition is a question-and-answer session with a witness in a civil or criminal case that takes place before the trial instead of during it. If the court has asked you to give a deposition, you must give one. It is natural to feel like you are being put on trial when asked to answer questions under oath, but a lawyer can help you prepare for the deposition. To find out more about depositions, contact the Austin pretrial process lawyers at Granger and Mueller.
What are Depositions and Why Do Courts Do Them?
In a deposition, the people present are the testifying witness, the attorney for the party that has summoned the witness, the attorney for the opposing party, and a court reporter who will write a transcript of the deposition. The court reporter may also make an audio or video recording of the deposition. Most depositions take place in the office of the lawyer who summoned the witness. They can last as little as a few minutes or as long as an entire workday (eight hours, including a one-hour break).
The lawyer who summoned the witness may ask the witness as many questions as they choose. Then the other party’s lawyer may cross-examine the witness, meaning that the lawyer gets to ask the witness another set of questions. The judge will watch a recording of the deposition or read a transcript of it before the trial. If the judge determines that some of the cross-examination questions were unfair, they will not present those questions or the responses to the jury.
Depositions are common in civil cases, such as personal injury lawsuits, where lawyers often take depositions of physicians who treated the injured plaintiff. Many states, including Texas, also allow depositions in criminal cases.
Tell the Whole Truth but Do Not Speculate
You must tell the truth at your deposition; if you lie, you are committing the crime of perjury. If you do not know the answer to a question, answer honestly that you do not know. Answer the questions thoroughly, but do not include more detail than the lawyer asks you to provide. If answering a question truthfully would expose you to criminal charges, plead the Fifth Amendment.
An Austin TX Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help You Survive Your Deposition
A criminal defense lawyer can help you if you have been asked to provide testimony in a deposition. Contact Granger and Mueller in Austin, Texas, or call (512)474-9999.