Anyone who has ever watched a legal show on television has probably seen a witness brought in for deposition and wondered what a deposition is all about. A deposition is one of several ways a lawyer has of obtaining information from a potential witness. The person who is required to receive the deposition is described as “being deposed” and is referred to as a deponent. Is a witness required to give a deposition? Can an individual refuse to do a deposition? Answers to these questions and more will be answered here.
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What is a Deposition?
In a court case, much of the things that help one side win are what is described as “discovery”. Discovery is when a lawyer does certain things or asks certain questions to discover more knowledge about the case and help substantiate the testimony of his or her client. Depositions are one of the most important discovery tools attorneys can have on their side. They allow attorneys to ask questions of the defendant, the plaintiff or any witnesses who may be familiar with the case and have important information. Depositions give an attorney a “heads-up” as to what he or she has in the way of witnesses and what can be expected if the case makes it to trial.
Am I Required to Give a Deposition?
Although depositions often take place before the case actually comes to court, they are still required by law if requested by an attorney. Depositions fall in the same category as a subpoena and are usually requested through a subpoena. Refusing to show up for deposition can result in a contempt of court charge as well as an order to pay attorney fees and additional fines. If providing a deposition can cause serious problems to the individual, the court may make special allowances, but depositions are usually always required if there is a subpoena.
Is a Deposition a Legal Proceeding?
Giving a deposition is the same as being a material witness in a case and giving testimony in court. Depositions may take place in an attorney’s office or a similar legal setting but are still considered as legal proceedings. Attorneys often depose potential witnesses to see if their testimony will help or hurt their case. If their testimony is helpful, the individual is usually called to trial to testify. The attorneys compare the testimony with what the witness said in the deposition to ensure the witness is telling the truth. Because they are legal proceedings and can play an important part of a case, potential deponents should prepare themselves for a deposition.
Who is Present at a Deposition?
Since depositions are considered legal proceedings, all individuals directly involved in the case are present for the deposition. This includes attorneys for both parties as well as the plaintiff and the defendant. A court reporter is there to take written notes of the deposition. If the deposition is being video recorded, a videographer may also be present. Paralegals working for either attorney may be present at depositions, but they may not give the deposition according to the American Bar Association.
Depositions can play an important part in helping determine the outcome of a trial, so it’s understandable that a despondent or deponent might be nervous. HG.org Legal Resources recommends that anyone required to give a deposition obtain an attorney for assistance so an attorney can offer assistance and help prepare the individual for the deposition.