What is a deposition?
A deposition can occur in a civil or a criminal matter, though this column
will address only Criminal Law. Depositions on Criminal cases are governed
by Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.220(h). They are permitted in
all felony cases, and with special permission of the Court for misdemeanor matters.
A deposition consists of the Assistant State Attorney, the Defense Counsel,
the Court Reporter, and one witness at a time. It allows the attorneys
to question each individual witness under oath prior to trial, so as to
learn more information as to what each individual has to offer. One might
view such as reading a movie script before going to the movie theater,
knowing what each actor will state before seeing it on the big screen.
In the event the witnesses change their story, the attorneys can impeach
their credibility by using their deposition testimony.
Often lawyers will "spin" things to the way which benefits their
client. For example, if what a person told law enforcement at the time
of the incident or during a deposition better fits one's case as opposed
to what is said at trial, a lawyer will point out that a witnesses'
memory is often better earlier on than later at jury trial. Of course,
if the lawyer wants the truth to be what is said at trial, the lawyer
will state the opposite, that the witness has had ample time to reflect
upon one's recollection, and to properly prepare for testimony since
the trial is so important. Such is a classic example of why one should
hire an attorney, as lawyers are trained on how to maximize the benefit
of any and all statements at depositions and trial.
A deposition should include the usage of a Court Reporter, though sadly
many lawyers will try to save a buck by using a digital recording device
in lieu of a live Court Reporter. The advantage to using a Court Reporter
is great, as not only will the Court Reporter be there to make sure he
or she understands everything, as opposed to inaudibles, but using a Court
Reporter means you can use the Court Reporter's office rather than
the State Attorney's Office. Using the State Attorney's Office
provides a home field advantage for the prosecution, and can even be intimidating
when witnesses pull up into the parking lot and see law enforcement vehicles
parked out front or the big State Attorney's Office sign on the door
of the lobby area.
Personally, I always use a Court Reporter, unless a client prefers to save
money and use a digital recording device in lieu of such, as using a Court
Reporter not only provides a more accurate record for impeachment at trial,
but it also is more professional. We are blessed to have many excellent
Court Reporters in Panama City, outstanding individuals who have served
our community for 20 or even 30+ years, and I strongly encourage my clients
to use such. My clients' lives are on the line, and saving a few dollars
using a digital recorder in lieu of an experienced Court Reporter is never
a good idea, unless my client demands such due to budgetary issues.
Defendants are specifically prohibited from being present during depositions
pursuant to Rule 3.220. Such complies with all Constitutional protections,
as the witnesses must appear at jury trial so as to allow attorneys to
conduct cross-examination, as well as the Defendant's Constitutional
right to confront the accuser. No jury will ever read or listen to a deposition
during a Criminal jury trial.
An effective Criminal Defense attorney must put you first, not one's
own pocket book. When you are ready to put your well-being first and foremost,
call my office immediately for a free consultation. Professionalism is
everything, so go the extra mile to secure experienced Criminal Defense
representation. Hire someone who exclusively handles Criminal Defense,
not someone who dabbles in multiple areas of law. Retain someone who lives
in this community, attends Church in this community every Sunday, and
loves Northwest Florida. If you need legal assistance, and desire someone
with strong morals and family values, call my office today for a free