Frequently Asked Questions About Depositions In Florida Criminal Cases
All defendants in criminal cases have the right to due process of law, which means that the state and all other parties involved in the case must follow the legal procedures correctly. Unless the defendant quickly decides to plead guilty, then there is a pretrial discovery phase where both the prosecution and the defense collect as much evidence as they can on which to base the arguments they will present at trial. If prosecutors find a piece of evidence that could be favorable to the defendant, they must share it so that the defendant may use it to help build his or her case. Taking depositions of witnesses is often part of the discovery phase in criminal cases as well as in civil ones. Although some Florida lawmakers want to limit the use of depositions in criminal cases relating to domestic violence and sexual offenses, these proposals have not yet gone into effect. To clear your name of the accusations against you, contact a Tampa domestic violence lawyer.
What Happens at a Deposition?
When the lawyers in a case want to find out before trial what a witness does or does not know, they may call the witness for a deposition, and the witness must attend. The deposition takes place at the office of the lawyer who called the witness. The opposing side’s lawyer also attends, as does a court reporter. The witness takes an oath to tell the truth, just like at trial. Both lawyers have a chance to ask the witness questions, and the court report makes a transcript of the deposition. Witnesses may not lie during a deposition, because this would be the crime of perjury, but where appropriate they may say, “I don’t know” or plead the Fifth Amendment.
Why Can’t Defendants Give Depositions in Their Own Criminal Cases?
In civil cases like personal injury lawsuits, plaintiffs and defendants often give depositions during pretrial discovery. In criminal cases, the court may not order a defendant to give a deposition. Pursuant to the Fifth Amendment, defendants have the right to remain silent about their cases. It is your decision whether you testify at your trial, and you and your lawyer have plenty of time to decide.
Are Depositions Still Allowed in Domestic Violence Cases?
Earlier this year, Florida lawmakers introduced two bills that would make it illegal for the courts to order depositions of alleged victims of domestic violence, sex crimes, and human trafficking. Neither of the bills passed, so as of July 2023, your lawyer may ask for a deposition of your accuser in a domestic violence case. If the accuser also testifies at your trial, your lawyer may use the deposition transcript as evidence in cases where the accuser’s testimony at trial contradicts his or her statements made during the deposition.
Contact Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney Bryant Scriven
A criminal defense lawyer can help you if you are being accused of domestic violence. Contact Scriven Law in Tampa, Florida to schedule a consultation.