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Al's Legal Corner - Did You Know?

Question:

What is a deposition?

Answer:

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 consultation.