What is a deposition

 

What is a deposition?
In about 30 years of working in the law I have seen many documents used to prepare witnesses for deposition. I decided to write one that would be easily understood by the typical lay witness. This article is not legal advice. It is a compilation of advice given by various attorneys, which I hope you will find useful.

If you use this for a client, it should be provided on the attorney’s letterhead with this cautionary language at the top: Note: This document is privileged and confidential. Do not show it to anyone. Read it several times before giving your deposition.

PREPARING FOR YOUR DEPOSITION

General Notes

Your deposition is extremely important and will affect your case in many ways. You must understand everything in this preparation document before being deposed. A deposition is a device commonly used in the “discovery” phase of a lawsuit, before trial. All parties in a lawsuit, through their attorneys, have a period of time after a suit is filed in which to discover facts about a case in order to prepare for trial. Depositions and interrogatories (questions to be answered in writing under oath) are two of the most commonly used.

In a deposition, the witness (you in this case) is called the deponent and is sworn to tell the truth (by the court reporter, who is neutral) before any questions are asked. Attorneys will attend for both sides and the attorney for the opposing party will ask you questions, while the court reporter takes everything down to provide everybody with a copy. Portions of the transcript will probably be used in the trial.

The opposing attorney also wants to get your testimony committed to writing. Warning: everything you say will be used against you, and it is the opposing attorney’s purpose to get you to say something that will hurt your case. Your deposition is not for your benefit; it is for the benefit of the other side. You must resist the urge to tell your story or vindicate yourself or justify your actions. You must answer the questions as briefly as possible and never volunteer information. You will have your chance at trial, when your attorney is asking the questions. So listen carefully to each question, think before answering, and answer concisely-with a “yes” or “no” if possible.

Depositions are not the trial, even though they may be used at trial. Depositions are informal proceedings, usually taken in an attorney’s office, and the judge is not present. They usually last two to six hours sometimes less. The scope of questions is unlimited, and attorneys have the right to ask broad questions on topics that may seem irrelevant. Many topics are covered in depositions that will never be admissible at trial. You must answer all questions unless your attorney instructs you not to answer (another reason for listening to the complete question and taking time before answering).

The opposing attorney may act like Mr. Nice Guy, and you should be polite, but always remember: his duty is to try to help his client by weakening your case. Do not trust him and always remain mentally sharp. Some opposing attorneys will be short and snappy with you, and at times may seem hard-lined and relentless in questioning you. Despite the tactics by opposing counsel, you must remember that he/she is not your friend. Your only friend in the deposition is your attorney.

Your attorney will not ask you any questions. He is there to protect you from improper questioning. Remember: this is not the place to tell your story, but only to give facts as you know them. If your attorney begins to speak, you must stop talking. If the attorneys enter into discussions, you are not to say a word, but listen carefully to what is being said. If your attorney makes an objection, remain silent until he/she tells you to answer. If your attorney instructs you not to answer, do not answer no matter how angry the other attorney becomes or how harmless the question may seem to you.

Getting Ready for Your Deposition

First read this document several times and make sure you understand all of it. If not, ask your attorney or his staff about anything you do not understand. Then review any interrogatories you have answered, because the other attorney will probably use them at your deposition. Read the pleadings and motions that have been filed and go over them with your attorney if you have questions about them.

The other side has the right to ask you to bring documents to your deposition. If you have not been asked to bring anything, do not bring anything. If you have been asked to do so, do your best to gather the documents requested, even if it means getting them from a lockbox or storeroom. Review all documents with your attorney before your deposition. If you have not been asked to bring any documents, but you have documents you think you should bring, discuss it with your attorney.

Important: Letters between you and your attorney and his/her staff, and any documents prepared in connection with the lawsuit are privileged and confidential and never should be produced. These documents may be privileged under the attorney-client privilege or under the work-product privilege. If you produce even one of them, you may forfeit the privilege for all of them. If any documents requested by the other side are privileged and confidential, let your attorney know immediately.

Your attorney or his staff will meet with you before your deposition to prepare you further. Do not hide anything from your attorney. You must be totally truthful with your attorney (and that includes his/her staff) and you will not be fully protected if there are things the other side may know that your attorney doesn’t know. Be candid in all respects and rest assured that everything you say to your attorney or his staff is privileged and confidential. Think of any bad things the other side could possibly know and be sure to let your attorney know about them.

The Deposition Itself

Dress neatly. The best outfit is comfortable business attire, with nothing flashy, nothing offbeat, nothing dirty, nothing sloppy. Remember, the other attorneys are evaluating you as a witness. If you will be making a good impression on the jury at trial, your testimony is more valuable.

Produce requested documents and answer truthfully. Your duty is to answer each question as truthfully as you can, but also with as short an answer as possible. Before answering any question, remember to look straight at the attorney asking the question, listen carefully, pause at least two or three seconds to think, and then give your short, concise answer politely and calmly. For most questions, a “yes sir” or “no sir” or “I don’t know” is sufficient. If you say more than three sentences, you have probably said too much. Remember to do this with each question, so that every answer is formal and controlled and you are controlling the tempo of your deposition.

Always be polite. Your conduct and demeanor may be more important than the answers you give. Try to make a good impression. Relax and remain calm, trying not to show nervousness. (You will be nervous, but try not to show it.) Always respond courteously. Always refer to the attorneys as “Mr.” or “Ms.” Speak up positively with assurance.

You may consult with your attorney. If you have questions or concerns about your potential answer, you may ask the opposing attorney, “May I consult with my attorney?” You may then either talk privately at the table or go outside to discuss it with your attorney. Do not be afraid to ask your attorney questions if you feel it important, but keep these consultations to an absolute minimum. Your attorney cannot tell you how to answer but can help clarify the question. Never answer a question with a question or rhetoric.

Your testimony must be truthful. Tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, but only in response to questions, and with short answers. If you do not tell the truth, you could be subject to criminal prosecution for perjury. If you are caught not telling the truth, it will hurt your credibility and therefore, your case. You must answer every question truthfully.

Answer only from your personal knowledge. Never volunteer an opinion unless specifically asked to do so. Never guess or speculate. Guessing or speculating is not truthful. Do not do it. Don’t let the opposing attorney fool you into making statements outside of your personal knowledge or about something you do not remember.

Testify in your own words. Don’t let opposing counsel put words in your mouth. Stay with your version of the facts as you know them. One tactic some attorneys use is to say “Well, is it fair to say that . . . ?” If he/she uses this tactic and attempts to summarize parts of your testimony, listen carefully and do not agree unless it is exactly true in all respects; if not, state that you do not agree with his/her summary.

Do not be intimidated. The opposing attorney may make an insinuation or express an opinion that you are not telling the truth. This is an old trick and you should not fall for it. He/she may say something like, “Do you mean to tell me that you’re willing to sit here under oath and swear to that?” Remain calm, look him/her in the eyes, and say, “I have just testified to that fact under oath.” The opposing attorney may speak with a raised voice and seem hateful, but your attorney will not let you be badgered or let things get out of hand.

Be careful of questions dependent on your memory. If you are asked about something that happened long ago and you do not remember the date or time, just say so, and do not guess. Nobody expects you to remember every fact of your life. If pressed for dates, you can say, “To the best of my knowledge, it was around that time.” If you don’t remember, say so. Often, the truthful answer to a question begins with “To the best of my knowledge at this time.”

If you don’t know, say so. Again, do not speculate and do not guess. If you do not know the answer to a question, just say, “I do not know.” Do not assume anything. Another old trick is for the opposing attorney to pull out a piece of paper and read it to himself, then ask you if you remember writing a letter to [name] that said [facts]. Don’t be fooled into admitting something of which you are not sure. Don’t say, “I guess so” when the truthful answer is “I do not remember writing such a letter.”

Don’t give long, rambling answers. The opposing attorney will always gain an advantage if you talk too much. Never ask to explain your answer before giving it. And don’t explain your proper “yes sir” or “no sir” answer, either. You must not volunteer information that is unsolicited ever. An example: You are asked to “State the highest degree of education you have earned.” Many witnesses respond: “Well I graduated high school and then went to college for two years.” This is volunteering information. The correct answer is “a high school diploma.” You will only hurt your case and help the other side’s case if you volunteer information, no matter how harmless it may seem.

Don’t give an opinion unless asked. Just answer with facts and never give your opinion or belief unless asked for it. Again, this is volunteering information and can only hurt your case.

Finish your answers. If you do have a long answer, and the other attorney interrupts you when giving your answer, you should politely insist on finishing your entire answer. Just state that you were not through with your answer and insist on being allowed to finish it.

Use care with documents. If you are asked about a certain document, you should ask to see the document before answering. But never refer to a document to refresh your memory without first discussing it with your attorney. In some states, if a deponent is asked a question and stops to look at a document to refresh his/her memory, the document must be disclosed even if it is a privileged document.

Always keep your guard up. Everyone is nervous about giving a deposition. It is only natural. Sometimes a deponent will begin to relax as the deposition progresses and they may even actually begin to enjoy being the center of attention. Avoid this feeling. It is dangerous and leads to your forgetting the rules outlined in this article. Remain alert, be on guard, sit up straight, and remember to:

a. Look and listen
b. Pause and think
c. Answer briefly

Remain polite and courteous, keep your guard up, and don’t let the opposing attorney talk you into hurting your case. Never let yourself be provoked into anger, arguing, or being upset.

Nothing is “off the record.” The court reporter is taking down every word. An attorney may ask you for an answer “off the record,” but do not fall for it. The only thing off the record will be discussions among attorneys when the reporter has been instructed to stop recording.

After Your Deposition

Provide information if agreed. During the deposition, you and your attorney may agree to produce something to the other side. Locate it immediately after the deposition and deliver it to your attorney as soon as possible.

Correct errors in the transcript. You will have a limited time to make any corrections after the court reporter has typed the transcript. Read it carefully and make all corrections. If you don’t do so within the time period, which may be as few as 20 days, you will not be able to correct it later and you will be stuck with it at trial. Follow your attorney’s advice regarding making the corrections.

Answers may need to be supplemented. In some states you are required to supplement any answers you gave at a deposition. If you are asked a question in a deposition, and your answer later changes, you must let your attorney know. For example, you may be asked for names of witnesses, and after your deposition you learn of another witness. You must give that new information to your attorney immediately.

Review your deposition before trial. Make sure you re-read your deposition testimony before you get to trial. Most cases settle and never reach trial, but not all cases settle. If you are going to trial, it is critical that you know everything you have said under oath, whether in a deposition or interrogatories.

Since 1988, firm founder and criminal defense lawyer Louis M. Pissios

Since 1988, firm founder and criminal defense lawyer Louis M. Pissios has been a dynamic and leading advocate for the preservation and protection of constitutional rights—before, during, and following an arrest—as well as the defense of formal criminal charges.

The pursuit of a successful defense strategy, coupled with one-on-one client interaction, has been the hallmark of our practice throughout the past forty years. Our firm is the choice for people seeking cutting edge criminal defense representation that is both personalized and high quality. Guided by the philosophy that the situation of every person facing criminal charges is unique, we tailor our defense strategies to the facts and circumstances of each case, as they apply to the law, in order to attain the best possible results for our clients. A creative and intensive approach to criminal charges can make a big difference in your case’s results, as does the lawyer you choose to represent you.

He would be more than happy to discuss your situation at a meeting in our offices, advise you of the costs involved, and provide you with valuable and practical advice on how best to address the accusations. From DUI charges or violent offenses to crimes related to theft or traffic, or even expunging your criminal record, there is no case too large or too small. In your free consultation, you will learn that our attorneys are not judgmental; instead, we have the utmost respect for your privacy and dignity. All contacts and conversations are strictly confidential, and we accept phone calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

We care about our clients and understand the anguish and stress that a person charged with a crime experiences. Being charged with a crime is a nightmare, not just for the individual charged, but for his or her family as well. We will guide you through the legal process, answer your questions, and provide you with the highest quality representation. We welcome you to compare our reputation, experience, and results with that of any criminal defense lawyer. Our professionalism and skill help us to obtain the best results and satisfaction for our clients.

We provide representation to individuals facing criminal charges in Lake County, and McHenry County. Please call us at (847) 263-0001 or email him directly at lawyerlou@sbcglobal.net Our lawyers will answer your questions and take time to ensure that you feel comfortable in fully understanding your rights, your options, and the consequences of your decisions.

Illinois DUI Case List

Expert Witnesses
 
People v. Jones, 2015 IL App (1st) 121016 (04/22/2015) (“foundational element” used
to strike a state firearms expert witness)
 
People v. Safford, 392 Ill. App. 3d 212, 221 (2009) (court said that the admission of an
expert’s testimony requires an adequate reliability foundation)
 
People v. McKown, 236 Ill.2d 278 (2010) (HGN foundations case but see King below)
 
People v. Floyd, 2014 IL App (2d) 120507 (March 2014) (retrograde extrapolation based
on a single breath test is more speculation than science)
 
Soto v. Gaytan, 313 Ill. App. 3d 137 (2000) (another case that talks about a foundational
element)
 
People v. Negron, 2012 IL App (1st) 101194 (2012) (another case that allows a
fingerprint expert to testify but discusses Safford’s foundations test)
 
Discovery Sanctions
 
People v. Tsiamas, 2015 IL App (2d) 140859 (December 2015) (State can’t ignore
discovery notice)
 
People v. Moravec, 2015 IL App (1st) 133869 (November 2015) (DUI sanctions
UPHELD)
 
People v. Kladis, 2011 IL 110920 (DUI evidence suppressed after video is destroyed)
 
People v. Aronson, 408 Ill.App.3d 946 (2011) (failure to make a copy is a sanctionable)
 
People v. Strobel, 2014 IL App (1st) 130300 (June 2014) (no discovery violation occurred here so it was error to impose a discovery sanction)
 
People v. Olsen, 2015 IL App (2d) 140267 (June 2015) (error for the trial judge to
suppress evidence due to a purported discovery violation)
 
People v. Moises, 2015 IL App (3d) 140577 (August 2015) (trial court’s decision to grant a discovery sanction is reversed because there was no discovery violation when officer did not record the FST)
 
Probable Cause
 
Navarette v. California, 134 S.Ct. 1683 (2014) (anonymous 911 call justifies traffic stop)
 
People v. Anderson, 2013 IL App (2d) 121346 (October 2014)
 
People v. Butorac, 2013 IL App (2d) 110953 (December 2014) (officers may board a
boat to enforce registration requirements)
 
People v. Cummings, 2014 IL 115769 (March 2014)
 
People v. Gonzalez­Carrera, 2014 IL App (2d) 130968 (September 2014)
 
People v. Timmsen, 2014 IL App (3d) 120481 (July 2014) (it’s ok to avoid a traffic roadblock so long as you don’t break any other traffic laws)
 
People v. Santovi, 2014 IL App 2014 IL App (3d) 130075 (May 2014) (no pc to arrest defendant before cop yells at the women and orders her to open the bathroom door or he’ll kick it down)
 
People v. Taiwo, 2015 IL App (3d) 140105 (April 2015) (proper to stop a car for a lane infraction when the cop had a hunch the car was connected to an accident he was
investigating)
 
Rescissions & Suspended DLs
 
People v. Elliott, 2014 IL 115308 (January 2014) (recession only acts prospectively and
has no retroactive effect, thus rescinding a suspension will not undue convictions based
on that suspension)
 
People v. Smith, 2013 IL App (2d) 121164 (November 2013) (DWLS can’t be revoked)
 
People v. Clayton, 2014 IL App (4th) 130340 (March 2014) (even if
notice was tampered with by the cop defendant had actual notice of his pending suspension)
 
People v. Gaede, 2014 IL App (4th) 130346 (November 2014) (defendant withdrew his consent and implied consent statute found constitutional)
 
People v. Morales, 2015 IL App (1st) 131207 (January 2015) (suspension reinstated defendant received proper notice from the police on the day of his arrest and had more than ample opportunity to challenge the suspension in court)
 
People v. McLeer, 2015 IL App (2d) 140526 (February 2015) (officer amends the report after it was issued, suspension stands because SOS had enough information that the
notice was given)
 
People v. Gutierrez, 2015 IL App (3d) 140194 (July 2015) (A PBT test is not a
statement, thus, the officer’s DL suspension is proper)
 
Blood & BAC
 
People v. Wuckert, 2015 IL App (2d) 150058 (December 2015) (625 ILCS 5/111­501.4
trumps hospital policy that the results should not be used for legal purposes)
 
People v. Armer, 2014 IL App (5th) 130342 (October 2014) (warrantless blood draw
suppressed when not done with consent nor under exigent circumstances)
 
People v. Harris, 2015 IL App (4th) 140696 (May 2015) (consensual blood draws ok)
 
People v. Weidner, 2014 IL App (5th) 130022 (March 2014) (no error to wipe
defendant’s arm with an alcohol wipe before hospital took his blood)
 
People v. Hutchinson, 2013 IL App (1st) 1023332 (November 2013) (no error in
admitting report of lab results as a business record)
 
People v. Harris, 2014 IL App (2d) 120990 (May 2014) (state had problems showing the
breathalyzer was certified)
 
People v. Eagletail, 2014 IL App (1st) 130252 (December 2014) (logbook and printout
admissible even though printout was made years after the breath test)
 
People v. Chiaravalle, 2014 IL App (4th) 140445 (December 2014) (officer made a
continuous observation even though he may have had his back to the defendant from
time to time)
 
People v. Thomas, 2014 IL App (2d) 130660 (May 2014) (speedy trial violated when
police waited to issue BAC citation they already knew what the hospital blood BAC was)
 
People v. Torruella, 2015 IL App (2d) 141001 (August 2015) (no error here when the
trial judge accepted calibration records of the breathalyzer as a business record and no
error when the court disregarded the defense expert’s testimony)
 
People v. Smith, 2015 IL App (1st) 122306 (August 2015) (state failed to establish that
the machine was properly certified within the 62 day window required by the
regulations)
 
Evidence
 
People v. Blakey, 2015 IL App (3d) 130719 (November 2015) (prior inconsistent
statement in this DUI huffing case was admitted in error)
 
People v. Phillips, 2015 IL App (1st) 131147 (October 2015) (defendant blew under .08
and attacked that the officer’s opinion he was intoxicated)
 
People v. Way, 2015 IL App (5th) 130096 (September 2015) (proximate cause defense,
error to deny the defendant a chance to defend her aggravated DUI by arguing that the
cannabis in her system did not contribute to the accident)
 
People v. King, 2014 IL App (2d) 130461 (November 2014) (officer can testify to how
defendant acted during instructions of HGN even though the results themselves not
admitted)
 
People v. O’Donnell, 2015 IL App (4th) 130358 (March 2015) (officer committed error
when she testified it was her belief that Defendant was lying to her at the scene of the
one car accident and that he was showing deception
 
People v. Kathan, 2014 IL App (2d) 121335 (August 2014) (a drug driving case with an
admission, bad driving and impairment leads to guilt)
 
People v. Morris, 2014 IL App (1st) 130512 (July 2014) (actual physical control
established when defendant passed out in front seat of parked car, the ignition off, the
driver’s side door open, and keys in his right hand)
 
Sentence
 
People v. Lake, 2015 IL App (3d) 140031 (April 2015) (9 year sentence for aggravated
DUI Death conviction upheld; it was not excessive; defendant was racing a horse)
 
People v. Rennie, 2014 IL App (3d) 130014 (May 2014) (16 year olds 6 year sentence
for aggravated DUI upheld she had weed in her system when motorcyclist died in an
accident)
 
People v. Stutzman, 2015 IL App (4th) 130889 (August 2015) (defendant inappropriately plead guilty to reckless homicide and aggravated DUI in violation of one
act one crime principles)
 
People v. Mischke, 2014 IL App (2d) 130318 (December 2014) (enhancement to a Class 2 felony occurs whenever a defendant has two prior convictions for any form of DUI, not just aggravated DUIs)
 
People v. Guillen, 2014 IL App (2d) 131216 (November 2014) (misdemeanor plea dismissed after defendant plead guilty and double jeopardy did not attach during the sentencing hearing)
 
Miscellaneous
 
People v. McGuire, 2015 IL App (2d) 131266 (December 2015) (section 11­501(a) of the Vehicle Code does not govern the operation of a watercraft)
 
People v. Hasselbring, 2014 IL App (4th) 131128 (November 2014) (defendant was a biker riding with friends when a friend hit his tire and died there was an error in an answer to a jury instruction)
 
Village of Bull Valley v. Zeinz, 2014 IL App (2d) 140053 (September 2014) (local
conviction for DUI reversed because the village failed to prove that it happened in their
jurisdiction)

a ruling out of the Cook County Circuit Court on Friday found that Chicago denied due process to motorists who were ticketed by the automated cameras, and that those tickets are now void.

If you’ve been pinged with a red-light or speed camera ticket since 2003, you could soon be owed a refund. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, a ruling out of the Cook County Circuit Court on Friday found that Chicago denied due process to motorists who were ticketed by the automated cameras, and that those tickets are now void.

If upheld, the decision would be a near critical blow to the controversial program that’s cost Chicagoans millions of dollars over the past decade. It isn’t the first time the city’s gotten into hot water over the way it’s handled the red-light and speed camera programs. Last year, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office sued the city’s former red-light camera operator, claiming the whole program stemmed from a bribery scandal under Mayor Richard M. Daley’s administration. An investigation by the Tribune also found that the city was guilty of shortening yellow light times at red light camera intersections.

All told, the program has been a mess since it launched, and Friday’s court case could be a near-knockout blow. The Sun-Times reports that the plaintiffs’ lawyer is going to request a class action lawsuit for motorists who were unjustly ticketed since the red light cameras first launched. They’re also seeking an injunction that would temporarily stop the city from enforcing outstanding red light and speed camera tickets.

This comes at a time when the city is strapped for cash and desperate for revenue to pay off massive, state-mandated pensions that it’s on the hook for. But it looks like this gravy train could be coming to a screeching halt.