Do You Legally Have To Give A Deposition?

Last Updated on November 24, 2021 by Fair Punishment Team

Yes! From a legal perspective, if you receive a subpoena to give a deposition, anywhere in the USA, then you must do so.

Even though you are likely just a witness to a crime, and have not done anything wrong yourself, if you fail to give a deposition (when called to do so) then you could face legal consequences. 

When you receive a subpoena, you will usually be given an appointment at which you should appear at court to give your oral testimony.

If you cannot make said appointment, there is usually some flexibility, as long as you contact the authorities as soon as possible. But, if you simply do not show up in court then you could be breaking the law. 

Do you legally have to give a deposition

A subpoena is a request for you to appear in court, in order to aid legal proceedings. However, the term ‘request is loosely used as it suggests you have a choice, when in reality you must appear in court once you receive a subpoena. 

This is not a request, it is an order. If you do not appear in court when you are supposed to, then you will likely find yourself facing legal sanctions. 

Depending on how important your appearance in court is, you might face a different sanction for not showing up. These range from small fines through to spending up to a week in jail.

So, if you receive a subpoena, you are legally required to give a deposition. 

Can I walk out of a deposition?

So, we have established that you must show up for a deposition, what are the rules for once you are there?

If you have ever watched any courtroom drama then you probably will have seen witnesses walk out in the middle of giving their deposition, usually once they get asked awkward or invasive questions.

But, are you legally allowed to do this?

Yes, technically speaking, you can walk out of a deposition. However, you shouldn’t really do this. In fact, this practice is very frowned upon within the courtroom.

When you are giving a deposition, you are providing information that is very important for that case. So, by walking out, you could put the entire trial into disrepute. 

If you do want to walk out of your deposition, it is generally accepted that you should speak to your lawyer before you do this.

If you do not converse with your council prior to walking out, then you could really mess up their side of the trial, and you could be essentially throwing them under the bus

So, yes, you can walk out of a deposition. However, you shouldn’t really do this. Generally speaking, walking out of court is something that only really happens in TV shows, in real life, people usually just complete their deposition then head home. 

Can a deposition be changed?

Yes, in a lot of cases, you can make changes to your deposition after you have given it. However, you should always try to tell the truth when you are giving your deposition.

But, if you do realize that you have made an error when giving your deposition then you can usually correct this within 30 days after the deposition was given. 

Giving a deposition can be a stressful thing, so it is understandable that you might make mistakes in the process. This is not the end of the world, but it is very important that you correct these mistakes as soon as possible.

If you realize your mistakes while you are still in the process of giving your deposition, then it is possible to correct your errors while you are still giving your deposition. 

But, if you do not realize your mistake until after you have stepped away from the stand, you can still make changes to the transcript of your deposition.

As soon as you realize your mistake you should contact the court and make the changes to your deposition. If you knowingly avoid updating the transcript, then you could be in contempt of court as you technically have not told the truth in court. 

Do judges read depositions?

Generally speaking, no, judges do not read depositions. In a lot of cases, depositions do not take place in the presence of the judge, and so they might not know what occurred during it.

In fact, a lot of judges will not know that a deposition has taken place unless the transcript of that deposition is brought to court as part of the trial evidence. 

The way that trials take place in TV shows such as Suits, and The Good Wife, is very different from reality.

In real life, courtroom proceedings are a lot less dramatic, and because of this a lot of the evidence that is shown in court is taken in very different ways. 

This is why the judge is not present for depositions a lot of the time as there is no guarantee that said deposition is going to be brought forward as evidence. 

So, no, judges generally do not read depositions. The only time that a judge will read a deposition is if a transcript, or a partial transcript, is brought forward as evidence in court.

However, a lot of depositions given by potential witnesses will not actually be used as evidence.

So, if you are called to give a deposition, there is no guarantee that it will be used as evidence, or that the judge will see it. 

How many times can I be deposed?

In the majority of cases, you can only ever be deposed once, so if you have already been subpoenaed to give evidence,  the chances are that you will not be served again for that same case.

This is a general rule across the whole of the USA, and it applies regardless of the number of defendants in the case.

So, if you are currently going through a trial, you will only be called to give evidence once. Even if your case is against multiple people. 

In the event of a trial with multiple defendants, your lawyer will work hard when scheduling the process of you giving evidence.

The justice system in the USA realizes that giving a deposition is an unpleasant experience, especially when you are giving evidence in a case where you are the plaintiff.

So, your lawyer will coordinate with the lawyers of the different defendants in the case to ensure that you will only have to give one deposition in the trial. 

There is an objection to the rule, as there are some circumstances where you might have to give a second deposition. However, this cannot be done easily, and so it will only be required when absolutely necessary.

In some States, a court order will even have to be obtained before a second deposition can be requested. This is why, you will usually only ever be deposed once throughout a trial. 

How many times can you postpone a deposition?

While you are legally required to give a deposition, it is possible to postpone it if you cannot make the original date that is given to you.

However, you can only postpone a deposition so many times before it will begin to look like you are avoiding it. 

As we mentioned earlier, failure to give your deposition can result in legal sanctions being brought against you. So, it is very important that you do not let your postponing cross over into avoidance. 

When you are first given a date for your deposition, there is a fair chance that you will not be able to make that date.

After all, you might have plans that you are unable to move, an important work function, or you might simply be ill. So, if you postpone your deposition one time this is no issue.

You can even postpone your deposition a second time, and as long as it is postponed quickly after you get the date, it will be accepted. 

But, if you postpone your deposition a third time, then the court will likely become suspicious. After the third time you postpone your deposition, the court will likely get in contact with you.

This is because it will seem that you are deliberately avoiding giving evidence, and this could impact the entire trial. So, you should try to avoid postponing your deposition if you can. 

Is a deposition a bad thing?

If you have never been to court before, then getting a subpoena can be quite daunting.

If you live a good and legal life, then the criminal and civil justice system can appear quite scary, so it is understandable that you might think that being deposed is a bad thing. However, in most cases it is not. 

The majority of people who receive a subpoena for a deposition are merely people who were potential witnesses to something unlawful that occurred.

They have done nothing wrong, they are simply giving evidence that could help the proceedings of that case. So, in a lot of cases a deposition is not a bad thing. It is simply a call to help a trial proceed. 

If you have watched any courtroom drama, you might think that giving a deposition is the same as giving evidence in court. But in most cases, it is not.

The majority of depositions are given before a trial proceeds, and can be very influential in whether that trial actually goes to court or not.

They are simply a way to harvest evidence that could support the defense or prosecution, and if that evidence is deemed influential then the transcript of that deposition could be brought forward in court.

So, no, depositions aren’t a bad thing. 

What happens if you fail to appear for a deposition?

If you fail to show at a deposition, then you could be considered as being in contempt of court.

This is something that can result in legal sanctions including large fines and jail time. However, the circumstance in which you failed to appear will be taken into account. 

If you are subpoenaed for a time which you cannot do, due to prior commitments, then you can postpone it.

As long as you inform the court that you cannot make the date, and arrange the new date, then you will not be considered in contempt of court.

You will only be considered as in contempt of court if you do not postpone, and simply fail to show. 

There are lots of scenarios that could cause you not to show, other than simply avoiding it, but regardless of these you could still be charged with contempt.

Of course, if you were unable to appear due to an emergency at home, then this will generally be taken into account.

But any failure to appear in court will disrupt the case, and so you could face legal sanctions.