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What is a deposition?

A deposition is a tool of discovery for Tampa trial attorneys to use during litigation. During a deposition, a deponent (the person being asked the questions) is placed under oath by the court reporter, or a notary if they’re appearing via telephone.  During the deposition, an attorney will ask the deponent multiple questions concerning the matter.  The standard for asking questions at a deposition is very, very broad.  Specifically, questions are allowed as long as they are reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.  This often confuses deponents as they’re asked about things that would otherwise be excluded as not relevant during their trial or hearings.  For example, often depositions are used to discover potential bias and motives of witnesses to lie. This could include previous romantic endeavors, monetary and fiscal matters, prior arrest records, etc. This is obviously very embarrassing and frustrating to deponents, but unfortunately it is a necessary part of depositions.

Many individuals ask Tampa trial attorneys whether they should have an attorney with them if they’ve simply been subpoenaed to appear at a deposition and are not a party to the case.  We always recommend individuals to have an attorney with them solely because an attorney will protect their rights and their privacy during the deposition.  For example, a Tampa trial attorney may object at appropriate times to ensure the attorney asking the question isn’t going into areas they otherwise have no right to go into.  As we’ve previously said, the areas are broad, but they certainly have limits.  The only way to ensure your rights and privacy are protected during a deposition is to have an attorney present to assist you.

Many individuals don’t understand what the purpose of the transcript of the deposition is for. The transcript has several purposes.  First and foremost, it is used to record the statements of the deponent for purposes of impeachment during their testimony at hearings or trials.  This means that if someone testifies in a manner that’s inconsistent with their transcript, a Tampa trial attorney can impeach them with that statement in front of a jury by showing that they previously testified in a different manner.  As you can imagine, this is very powerful in front of a jury especially when done properly by someone with extensive experience.  Secondly, this testimony can be used in support of certain motions, like motions for summary judgment, motions to dismiss, motions to suppress etc.  Lastly and most commonly, the transcript is simply an aid for the memories of the attorneys present in preparing for hearings and trials.  As I’m sure you’re aware if you’re reading this blog, you understand that words and minor details matter in legal matters.  A deposition can assist an attorney in remembering the exact words of a witness in preparation of trial or their direct or cross examination at trial.  Frankly, depositions have a wide variety of uses and are great assets to attorneys in preparing their cases.

It is worth noting though that many criminal defense attorneys do not take depositions in the overwhelming majority of their cases.  Many attorneys attribute this to attempting to keep their theory of the case and the best aspects of their defense hidden prior to trial.  As you are aware, the defense has very limited discovery obligations in a criminal matter.  Thus, criminal defense attorneys in the majority of situations can keep their theory of the case and defense somewhat away from the State and the Court until it’s presented before a judge or jury at trial.  Ultimately, it’s a matter of opinion and based on the very specific facts of the case whether most attorneys will follow this trend.

If you or someone you know has questions about an upcoming deposition or whether depositions are appropriate in their case, contact the Tampa trial attorneys at Hackworth Law, P.A. for a free case consultation.  We appreciate your taking time to look through our Tampa trial attorney blog and if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact our office.