Before any criminal or civil trial, a deposition must be taken. A critical part of the legal process, a deposition helps everyone involved with the case become more familiar with its details. It’s natural to feel nervous before a deposition. Most people are unsure about what to expect. Ideally, you’ll want to work closely with an experienced attorney that will help you prepare for a deposition.
At LJW Legal, our attorneys take the needed time to discuss the ins and outs of depositions to make sure you feel as comfortable as possible throughout the entire process. Keep reading to learn more about how to prepare for a trial deposition.
What’s a Deposition?
To start, let’s discuss the definition of a deposition. They are mostly a pre-trial oral testimony that’s taken under oath. In a deposition, the counsel, which is the opposing attorney, will ask you questions regarding the case. An official court reporter will record all your answers.
A deposition is extremely helpful to the opposing counsel. It will show them precisely what you know about your case, and give them what they need to prepare for your testimony in advance.
Where Will It Take Place?
Most depositions take place at the law office of the counsel. However, sometimes, they do take place in a neutral office provided by another attorney or business person. In the case of criminal depositions, these are conducted in the office of the State Attorney.
What to Expect During a Deposition?
During a deposition, you’ll be meeting with your attorney, the counsel, and an official court reporter. A deposition is always recorded somehow. In some cases, they might be videotaped. The goal of the deposition is to have a record of your recollection of the facts about the lawsuit. In essence, this is just an interrogation session without the judge or jury present.
Before you participate in a deposition, you will take an oath to tell the truth. If later testimony at trial conflicts with what you said during the deposition, you’ll have to explain why. If you’re found guilty of lying in your deposition, you can be prosecuted for perjury, or lying under oath.
The Cross Examination
It’s common for one of the parties to dispute your recollection of the facts. Once they ask all the questions, the opposing lawyer may try to undermine your credibility. If this happens, you are on your own, as your lawyer cannot help you answer any questions during the cross-examination.
Keep in mind these are traps. The purpose of these questions is to agitate you or make you angry so they can undermine your testimony later on.
A Deposition vs. Testifying in Court
Unlike testifying in court, a deposition often takes place at an attorney’s office. Even though you’re still required to answer questions, the process is different. By the time you’re testifying in court, you’ll know your attorney’s questions in advance to allow you to be more prepared. In a deposition, most questions come as a surprise.
At a trial, the judge can decide whether or not to have you answer specific questions. During a deposition, the opposing party can make uncomfortable and even inappropriate questions, and you’ll still have to answer them, as your attorney can’t interfere.
Lastly, during a deposition, there are no jurors or judges presents. It’s a more private affair between both parties.
Things to Keep in Mind at a Deposition
As you start preparing for trial depositions, there are a few things you should keep in mind to make sure you do your best.
Tell the truth: Under no circumstance should you lie during a deposition. You can be charged with perjury, which is a felony.
Listen carefully: Do not try to answer any question unless you’ve heard it clearly and thoroughly. If you haven’t, you can ask the attorney to repeat the question.
Understand the question: On that note, don’t answer any question unless you understand It fully. If you don’t, ask the attorney to elaborate on their question until you understand it.
Don’t guess: If you don’t know the answer, state so, don’t try to guess.
Confer with your lawyer: At any point throughout the deposition, you have the right to speak with your attorney privately regarding your answer to one question.
Just answer the question: Don’t give any more information than is necessary to answer the question. Once you believe you’ve responded to a question, stop talking.
Don’t explain: You don’t have to explain or justify the answers to their questions. You are here to state what you know.
Remain calm: Most likely, the opposing attorney will try to provoke you. Resist. Do your best to stay calm and polite, don’t argue, and speak in the same tone and manner as you would to your attorney.
Beware of estimations: If you need to estimate distances or time in any of your answers, make it clear. Once you answer, state that your response is an estimate.
Don’t speculate: On that note, you don’t want to formulate answers based on guesses, predictions, feelings, or estimations.
Beware of quotes: If you’re talking about a conversation you had in the past, make sure you say whether you’re paraphrasing comments or if you’re directly quoting what someone said.
Forget about notes: You cannot bring letters, journals, or any other documents to a deposition. These may only be used if the attorney previously approved them.
Be prepared: If the counsel requested specific documents, make sure to bring them. Bring at least three copies of the materials. One for the counsel, one for yourself, and one for your attorney. Bring the originals as well to prove the accuracy of the documents. It’s not necessary for you to bring additional documents, only bring the items requested.
Admit your mistakes: If at any point during your deposition you realize you have given an erroneous answer, correct your mistake as soon as you recognize it.
Speak about what you know: Remember that you’re not expected to know all the details. State what you know and don’t worry so much about the details. If you have to consult records not available at the moment, don’t answer.
Your conversations are private: Don’t reveal what you’re discussing with your attorney. It would be best if you never revealed to the other party what you’re privately consulting with your attorney.
Leave humor out: This is not the time or place to make jokes. Avoid obscenities and wisecracks. Your humor can be looked at as crude or untruthful and hurt your case in the future.
Don’t speak with the counsel: Once your deposition concludes, don’t talk to the counsel. A friendly conversation may be a strategy to get you to say something meaningful about your case without your attorney present.
Preparing for a trial deposition is extremely important. How you conduct yourself during one can make or break your case. Be aware that a deposition is a way to provide your opponent with ammunition to use against you. Be cooperative, but keep these tips in mind. At LJW Legal, our attorneys will work with you to make sure you feel comfortable and relaxed before your deposition.