January 27

What Is A Deposition?

Are you wondering what a deposition is? Perhaps you’ve been asked to participate in one, and you’re trying to figure out what to expect, what the purpose is, and who is involved in a deposition. Luckily, we’ve got all of the answers for you in this handy guide. So, what is a deposition exactly?

What Is A Deposition? 

In the most simplest terms, a deposition is the process of taking an out of court statement or oral testimony from a witness that can be transformed into a written transcript for later use in court or for the purpose of discovery.

This is so that evidence and witness statements can be gathered outside of a court, for use in the future inside of a courtroom. In the United States, this is called a deposition, but in Canada, it is referred to as an examination for discovery. 

A deposition is therefore conducted outside of the courtroom and is often done by lawyers rather than under the supervision of a judge.

Therefore, depositions provide lawyers with the ability to conduct ‘discovery’ to investigate and find out more information about the case in which they are working on. 

This type of examination allows both parties to find out potential evidence and facts in order to create their strategy ahead of the trial. Sometimes, what is found out during a deposition will mean that there is no actual need for a trial at all, although this is not always the case. 

Depositions may come in many different forms, but they are for oral statements from witnesses whilst under oath, for relevant documents and evidence. With a deposition, we are able to have a more complete understanding and picture of what happened, or during the event in question. 

What Is The Purpose Of A Deposition?

The main purpose of a deposition is to find out what the witness knows, allow them to speak under oath and preserve that testimony. However, it is also to give all of the parties involved a chance to hear, learn and understand all of the facts prior to the trial, so that it is fair.

Unlike what you may have seen on TV, there should be no surprise witnesses or testimonies during a trial, as both parties will have been part of depositions beforehand, and will know who the witnesses are, and what they will say during a testimony. 

Therefore, another purpose of a deposition is for the lawyers and participants to understand the case better, and be able to learn where the weak spots are in their case, in order to prepare for the trial properly. 

That being said, the overall main purpose of a deposition is for a witness to undergo a formal, recorded question and answer session under oath, in order to find out what they know, and preserve that testimony for later use in court. 

What Is A Deposition?

What Happens During A Deposition?

A deposition is part of the discovery phase of the investigation process, where both parties will need to work together in order to exchange information and evidence about the case before the trial takes place. 

As mentioned above, a deposition is not meant to take place within a courtroom. Instead, a deposition will take place outside of the courtroom, most often in an attorney’s office or building.

In this situation, the attorneys or lawyers will ask the deponent or witness a range of different questions regarding the events that took place, the evidence or facts regarding the situation. 

What the witness says will be recorded word for word by a court reporter, and the reporter will be present throughout the whole deposition in order to produce a transcript of what is said.

Most of the time, a deposition will be done in person, so that the witness’s statement can be accurately recorded, however in some cases where the witness is out of town, state or not well enough for trial, then this can be done online or by video.

During a deposition, any party related to the case can attend, and the witness or deponent will often have a lawyer with them. However, this attorney does not have as much power asd they would have within a courtroom, as the questions in a deposition are generally not rejected or opposed and are broader than those that are permitted in a courtroom environment. 

In a deposition, the deponent is expected to answer all questions, although some deponent attorneys may make objections. Some deponents may even suffer consequences for not answering deposition questions such as monetary sanctions.

In addition, if the witness is paramount or highly involved in the case, then refusing to answer can sway the case against them, or they may be found in contempt of court. 

If this tells you anything, it is that depositions need to be taken very seriously, as they are essential in gathering information and evidence in order to investigate a case.

Deponents will be asked a series of questions, and so they must listen carefully and answer very seriously and carefully as they will be under oath. If false statements are made under oath, then deponents may face criminal penalties. 

Depositions may also be short, 15 minute lines of questioning, whereas others for more serious cases or heavily involved witnesses may take hours or up to a week of questioning in order to gain a statement and testimony from the witness or deponent. 

What To Do In A Deposition

If you have to take part in a deposition, then it is important to take it very seriously. A deposition is intended to gather evidence and your testimony as a witness. Therefore, you will need to ensure that you are dressed appropriately and professionally, to present a clean image of yourself.

You should also think very carefully and clearly before you answer a question. Everything you say is being recorded, so it is vitally important that you remember this before responding. Your attorney will also be there to object to any questions that are inappropriate. 

You should never lie or guess an answer. If you do not know, then say that you don’t. Only answer with the facts, rather than speculation. If you lie or speculate, then lawyers will be able to poke holes in your testimony.

In addition to this, you should not react or argue with anyone about statements or questions. Some lawyers will try to provoke a response out of you, so you need to remain calm and just speak the truth. 

If you feel that you are going to lose your cool, or that you’re not calm and collected, then let your lawyer know that you need a quick break. 

Finally, keep answers short and to the point. Only answer the question put forward to you and do not give any information freely. However, you should always be honest during a deposition as you are under oath. 

Summary

To summarize, a deposition is part of the discovery phase of a legal investigation. A deposition involves questioning a witness in order to find out what they know and what their testimony is, outside of a courtroom setting.

This is so that all parties involved are aware of the witness, and their evidence before the trial takes place. In a deposition, the witness is under oath and is obligated to answer all questions truthfully and as honestly as possible to gain a better understanding and picture of the events that took place.



Listen to the Ask a lawyer podcast 

We will answer all your questions by a lawyer - but not your lawyer