Question: What is the Rule of Sequestration?
Answer: Criminal Defense lawyers will routinely request the Court to “invoke
the Rule” prior to a jury or non-jury trial beginning. The Rule,
which is more commonly known as the Rule of Sequestration, ensures that
witnesses do not discuss the facts of their cases and/or their testimony
with other witnesses prior to their testimony at trial. The Rule of Sequestration
is applicable in all sorts of trials, Criminal and Civil. The Rule is
outlined in the Florida Evidence code, specifically in Florida Statute 90.616.
Invoking the Rule of Sequestration is critical in cases where witnesses
are likely to be impeached concerning inconsistencies in their trial and/or
hearing testimony. As you can imagine, if witnesses were permitted to
leave the witness stand and then rush back out to tell the other witnesses
what questions they were asked, what they struggled with, the major points
raised on cross examination, and the like, then the other witnesses would
certainly have an opportunity to clean up their contradictions and testimony.
The Rule, or the at least the concept of such, is used even during Criminal
depositions of State and Defense witnesses.
In the Criminal Defense world, one can see signs of such a concept even
before a case is ever filed, as at the time of investigating a case law
enforcement will separate witnesses prior to taking statements. After
all, it is important from the very beginning to have answers which are
not influenced by what another witness states to law enforcement. Oftentimes
law enforcement will "test" a witness for truthfulness by telling
one witness that another witness has confessed in the adjacent interview
room, even if such is not necessarily accurate, in hopes of getting the
first witness to come clean with the truth. Remember that interview rooms
have hidden cameras and microphones, so everything you say is being recorded,
even before any handheld recorder is turned on by a law enforcement officer.
If you, or someone you know, is facing Criminal charges, call my office
immediately. We are only digits away, 24/7!