Before a criminal trial can take place, it is necessary for both the prosecution and the defense to gather as much evidence as possible in order to prove guilt or innocence. The procedures for doing so are complex. The discovery process is a part of this pre-trial procedure in which evidence is gathered from the opposition. This can be done by requesting relevant documentation that only the opposition has access to, and is often initiated by filing for a subpoena in order to legally compel a transfer of information. Another part of this pre-trial process is a deposition.
During a deposition, there is often a videotaped testimony of a witness or defendant that takes place out of court. This testimony is then transcribed and used in court as evidence. In this way, court proceedings are streamlined. The lawyers and prosecutors do the majority of their work out of court so that a judge and jury can wade their way through other cases without wasting taxpayer money and time. Depositions are a more efficient use of relevant legal resources and are common during pre-trial motions and proceedings.
In some situations, it may be necessary to conduct the deposition during in-court proceedings. These situations are usually extreme in nature. For example, if a witness is on his or her deathbed, it may be necessary to streamline the process for gathering evidence even if it might draw out the trial.
A deposition is usually conducted in a professional setting, but each situation may be different. Most often they are conducted in a law firm or court reporter office or conference room, but on occasion may take place where a particular witness works or lives. These evidence-gathering sessions take place with a number of people present, including the deposed, attorneys, court reporters, etc. A person who is being deposed has the legal right to an attorney in order to guide the questions asked and answers given.
These sessions begin with the deposed taking an oath, to tell the truth, just as he or she would if in court.
For those who have never been interrogated, a deposition can be a scary experience. Although it helps to have an attorney present during questioning, you never know exactly what questions will be asked or how the opposing side will conduct the deposition. Such proceedings can be relatively passive experiences, or they can devolve into aggressive verbal fistfights. It is not at all uncommon for the deposed to experience harassment or be asked inappropriate questions, and when in that particular scenario it is important to keep one’s temper in check. Even though a judge is not present during a deposition, everything the deposed says is a matter of record and should be held as such.