What is the Rule of Sequestration?
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 is outlined in the Florida Evidence code, specifically in Florida Statute 90.616.
Criminal defense lawyers will routinely request the Court to “invoke the Rule” prior to a jury or non-jury trial beginning. The Rule of Sequestration is applicable in all sorts of trials, Criminal and Civil.
Invoking the Rule
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!