What to expect in a deposition?
We recently had a client who had a deposition scheduled and she was very afraid because she did not know what to expect. Basically, a deposition is a right that both parties have in a civil or criminal case where the attorney for the other side can ask you questions and the questions will be written down by a court reporter. You will be sworn in and placed under oath, meaning that you are supposed to tell the truth because if you don't and someone investigates you, a criminal case may be filed against you for perjury (lying under oath). The first step in a deposition is that the attorney for the other side hires a process server (certified delivery guy) to serve you with what is called a subpoena for deposition (notice) and the process server comes to your home to deliver the document. The subpoena for deposition tells you the time and location where the deposition will take place. You also have the opportunity to reschedule your deposition if you are unable to attend on that specific date.
Many times clients do not know the scope of a deposition. Generally, Florida Courts allow questions to be asked that are not only relevant to the issues of the case. Meaning, that the attorney for the other side can pretty much ask you anything with a few exceptions. The exceptions include privilege information like attorney client privilege; which is whatever information you discuss with your attorney is confidential and you do not have to answer questions such as: "What did you tell your attorney yesterday?" or "What did your attorney tell you about the case today?"
How long can a deposition take? They can be as short as thirty minutes or as long as several days depending on the complexity of the case. Unfortunately, some attorneys use depositions to harass, intimidate, or annoy the other side by unnecessarily prolonging depositions. However, you do not have to sit in a deposition for three hours without stopping. You have every right to ask for bathroom breaks every so often if you need it. Remember, they may keep you in the deposition but you have a right to take breaks, drink water or eat etc.
The idea of a deposition is for the other side to obtain information about you that will help them prepare for trial. The deposition also helps the other side to force to maintain your testimony the same as when you were deposed; otherwise, they will try to make you like like a liar or someone who is inconsistent and not trustworthy. Therefore, you should take your time and answer your deposition questions carefully and truthfully. I always tell my clients that the less they talk the better it is for them. So just answer the question and do not volunteer extra information that was not asked for. However, if the question is incomplete and makes you look bad you have the right to explain your answer in more detail.
Due to our current COVID 19 concerns you have the right to ask the Court for a zoom or telephonic deposition where you do not have to appear in person.