Giving a deposition under oath

Are Depositions Under Oath? Read Before Being Deposed

Are You Under Oath During a Deposition?

Participating in a legal deposition can be both intimidating and stressful. Since many of us have no prior experience with depositions, we can go into the meeting underprepared for what is to come. How seriously should you take your deposition? Does the information you share in the deposition directly impact the outcome of the case? 

Most importantly, are depositions under oath? Yes, before you begin the deposition, you will be sworn in under an oath. Because of this, any information you share during the deposition must be truthful. Lying during your deposition, whether on purpose or inadvertently, will have serious repercussions.

So, how do you ensure that you answer each question during your deposition honestly? Is there a way to avoid perjury during the deposition? In this post, we will discuss several important aspects of participating in your first deposition. By properly preparing for a deposition, you will both decrease the stress surrounding the event and allow yourself to give the best deposition possible.

Why Are You Under Oath During a Deposition?

As many individuals have not participated in a deposition previously, it is important to establish what a deposition is. Depositions take place during the discovery phase of the litigation. The purpose of a deposition is to provide the opposing attorney an opportunity to ask you questions related to the case. A deposition is, essentially, an oral testimony that the deponent gives while under an oath.

During the deposition, the opposing attorney hopes to discover additional information that will help them as they establish their case in preparation for a courtroom trial. You may participate in a deposition that was requested by the opposing attorney. In the same way, your attorney may request a deposition with members of the opposition.

While a deposition does not take place inside a courtroom, it is still taken under oath. In fact, there is little difference between a deposition and giving testimony in a court other than the fact that a judge will not be present during the deposition. (However, in a few high-profile cases, a judge has participated in the deposition.)

Because you will be sworn in under oath at the beginning of your deposition, you must answer questions to the best of your ability. The information you share during the deposition will be used in your case and often shared at the trial. Answering a question with false information, even inadvertently, may have serious legal repercussions and alter the outcome of your case.

Who Administers The Oath Before a Deposition?

While the opposing attorney will be the individual conducting the majority of the deposition, they will not be the one to administer the oath. Before the deposition begins, a notary or other authorized officer will ask the deponent to raise their right hand. They will then administer the oath which states that the deponent will tell the truth and nothing but the truth during their deposition.

In some cases, your deposition may take place remotely over a phone call or video conference. Although this is becoming increasingly popular, it is crucial to note that the individual who is administering the oath must be physically present with the deponent to swear them in. 

Perjury: Lying While Under Oath

At the very beginning of your deposition, a notary or other official will swear you in. As soon as this is complete, you will be under oath. Any question that you answer must be answered to the best of your knowledge. The oath that you are under during your deposition is the same oath you may be under if you are required to give a testimony during the courtroom trial. 

Although your deposition may feel a bit more relaxed, it is no less important that your testimony during the trial. In most cases, the opposing lawyer is searching for any inconsistencies in your testimony. Even if it was a simple mistake on your part, they can use these inconsistencies to question your character during the trial.

Whether on purpose or inadvertently, sharing false information during your deposition may have grave consequences. In fact, this is actually a form of perjury. While a perjury charge during a deposition is not common, it is a possibility.

Correcting Your Deposition

Luckily, it is possible to make corrections to your deposition. If you realize you have misspoken during the deposition, simply request to cover that question again. Clearly state that your answer was inconclusive and provide the additional information. This is especially important as omitting important information from your answers is just as serious as providing false information.

If you become aware of a mistake in your deposition once the deposition is complete, your attorney will be able to walk you through the process of making corrections. There are various advantages and disadvantages to making corrections to your deposition. However, it is always better to share the truth rather than have the opposing attorney use your lie against you during the trial. 

Giving a Successful Deposition Under Oath

Knowing that you will be giving your deposition while under oath can add to the pressure of the situation. However, while stressful, it also provides you with additional incentives to spend time preparing for your deposition. Here are a few of the ways you can prepare in the weeks before ensuring a successful deposition.

Always Tell The Truth

After learning what we now know about being under oath during your deposition, this should go without saying. However, you would be surprised at the number of deponents who believe that lying is better than telling the truth.

It is important to remember that, as an attorney, the opposition regularly participates in depositions. Because of this, they are constantly seeking for missteps or signs of false information. In any situation, telling the truth will always be more beneficial than having the opposition catch your lie later on.

Think Through Your Answers

One of the most common ways that deponents share false information inadvertently is by answering a question too quickly. This can be harmful in personal injury cases and other types of cases where the details can make or break the outcome.

By thinking through your answer in its entirety, you are allowing yourself to verify each word that will come out of your mouth. In doing so, you minimize the potential of sharing false or incomplete information during the deposition.

Admit Your Mistakes

We all tend to become forgetful, especially when under extreme stress. Because of this, you will likely make a mistake during your deposition. As discussed above, you must correct your mistake as soon as you realize the error.

Never Volunteer Information

While it is crucial that you truthfully answer any question posed by the opposition, it is just as important to remain silent. During your deposition, never volunteer information or documentation that the opposition does not directly request.

Simply answer the question in its entirety and remain silent. If the opposition sees a need for additional clarification, it is their responsibility to ask additional questions. Volunteering information or documentation can cause you to reveal information that may alter the outcome of your case.

Only Share Factual Information

Since any information that you share in a deposition is under oath, it is important to only share factual information. Do not make estimations unless you explicitly state that your answer is an estimate. Do not guess on an answer, simply state that you do not know the answer to their question. 

Sharing any information outside of that which you have personally witnessed or experienced is one of the biggest mistakes that leads to the inadvertent sharing of false information. 

While you will give your deposition while you are under oath, this should not be cause for alarm. Simply remember that the information you share during the deposition should be the same information that you share during testimony in court. Understanding this ahead of time will allow you to properly prepare for a successful deposition.

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Matt McWilliams
matt@mcwilliamsmedia.com