What Happens If I Walk Out of A Deposition?

Legal proceedings are intimidating for individuals who are not familiar with the processes. They are often quite formal, unfamiliar terms are used continuously and it can be a challenge to understand all the different rules and regulations. The quick answer to the question of walking out of a deposition is yes, but not encouraged to do so. Luckily, your attorney will help you and walk you through the process, but you can also learn more about certain processes here! In this article, we will talk about what a deposition is, and why walking out of one is frowned upon.

What Happens If I Walk Out of A Deposition?

Are you legally allowed to walk out of a deposition? Technically yes; however, you will likely be putting the legal case in jeopardy and it is a highly uncomfortable thing to do. Though you may have seen people walk out of deposition and the courtroom on TV, this is something that doesn’t happen in daily life. 

While the answer to this question is yes, there are some things you should know to help you understand why this may not be a good idea. Also, we will explore why you might want to walk out of a deposition, and what instances may be appropriate for you to do so.

What Is The Legal Process of a Deposition?

If you have been selected to give a deposition, for any number of reasons, you will likely receive a subpoena. This is a legal document that is a formal “request” for you to appear and give your testimony. The subpoena will include a date and time for you to do so, which you may be able to move if you are unable to make the designated time. 

Though a subpoena is considered to be a request, you don’t necessarily have a choice on whether or not to attend – you could face potential legal sanctions or other disciplinary actions if you fail to appear. At the deposition, you will give your testimony as part of the discovery process leading up to a potential trial.

Depending on your role in the case, your attorney will advise you on the types of questions you can expect, how to craft your answer to those questions, and the importance of not volunteering more information than what was asked.

In a deposition, there will be a court reporter, legal counsel for each party, the deponent, and possibly other witnesses or experts who will also provide testimony. It will take place at a neutral site, a hotel conference room, a courtroom conference room, etc. and you should dress professionally.

Once you have given your testimony, your lawyer will advise you on the next steps, otherwise, you will be free to go. There may be instances where the court requests you to return or give another deposition, but your lawyer will let you know.

Can I Walk Out of A Deposition?

Giving a deposition can be a bit nerve-racking, depending on the reason why you are being deposed – if you’ve seen a crime, or have to recount a traumatic or sensitive experience, etc. While you and your lawyer will prepare for the questions you may be asked during the deposition, you may feel antsy or uncomfortable when the questions become more invasive.

Answering tough questions can make you feel awkward, vulnerable, and make you want to get up and walk out. Even though you are technically legally able to do so, you are highly encouraged not to. When you have been summoned for a deposition, have agreed to it, and shown up, walking out in the middle can disrupt the building’s legal case and put it into jeopardy.

If you do not talk with your counsel before walking out, you could be significantly negatively impacting their case. Hopefully, you and your lawyer will cover the topics and questions that could make you more likely to walk out and have created a strategy on how to handle the situation. Try not to do anything without consulting your legal counsel – for your good and theirs!

What Types of Questions May Make Me Want to Walk Out of My Deposition?

In most cases, you must answer any questions posed to you in a deposition, unless the answer will reveal privileged or irrelevant private information. 

  • Privileged Information: confidential conversations between a doctor and patient, attorney and client, and/or confession to a priest. 
  • Private Information: information related to an individual’s health, religious beliefs, or sexuality; however, the opposing counsel can compel an answer from you if they can provide an argument on how this information is pertinent to the case.
  • Irrelevant Information: any question that has no bearing on the outcome of a proceeding is considered irrelevant information and your attorney can advise you not to answer during the deposition.

There are times when a judge may overrule you or your attorney’s objection to answering a question – just know that you may still be required to answer. 

Depositions will begin with background information on the deponent before getting into the reason they are there. As the deposition progresses, questions are likely to become more invasive – be sure that you and your attorney are always on the same page, some breaks/recesses are allowed for you to regroup.

Tips on How To Answer Questions During a Deposition

Rather than outright refusing to answer a question during a deposition, follow some of these tips to keep you calm and help you answer questions in a way that best suits your interests.

  • Listen closely to the question and take your time posing your response – you are allowed to ask for clarification on a question.
  • Do your best to answer the question asked and nothing more: yes or no, don’t provide information that is not directly related to the question.
  • Only provide an answer to a question that you know is true, it is okay to say “I don’t know.”
  • Be truthful, be concise; lying would not be beneficial to you even if the question/answer makes you uncomfortable – it could lead to major problems for you and your attorney down the road.

Before being deposed, your attorney will prepare you with questions you should be expected to be asked. Everything from verifying your background to the sensitive facts of your testimony. They will inform you of potential tactics the opposing counsel will take to lead you into an answer or get you to reveal something inadvertently – take this preparation seriously, it will only help you.

What Happens If I Refuse to Answer A Question at My Deposition?

If you refuse to answer a question during your deposition, you should be aware that consequences are possible. Any question that is not answered and is not protected by privilege, private, or irrelevant information, can see the opposing counsel file a motion with the court to compel a response. In some instances, monetary sanctions including court costs and attorney fees are possible. At the same time, choosing not to answer a question can put your credibility into question by others.

When working with your attorney, inform them ahead of time of any questions or topics that you will be hesitant to talk about – they can come up with a strategy to help you avoid those answers, or can help you craft your response in a way that makes you more comfortable and willing to answer.

Related Questions

Can I Amend an Answer to My Deposition After It’s Been Completed?

Yes, you can! In a lot of cases, you can make changes to your deposition after you’ve given it, but you should strive to be as truthful and remember facts as well as possible before the deposition. If you realize you’ve made an error, you can usually get it corrected within 30 days of when the deposition was given. You can also go back in the middle of the deposition to correct any mistakes or statements that you gave earlier, but you should try to limit this as much as possible. 

Who Will Have Access to The Deposition Transcript?

Most of the time, depositions do not become part of the public record – unless it is filed as official evidence for a case. Oftentimes depositions aren’t used as evidence at trial, but instead, they are used to settle out of court.

Your deposition is commissioned by a lawyer and not a judge or court, so the lawyer is the one who owns your statement. A copy of the deposition transcript will be available to you, the opposition lawyer, and anyone else involved in the discovery process of the case. Anyone else not involved in the case will not be allowed access to your transcript unless it is filed as evidence in a court case.

If your case settles outside of court, your deposition is sealed with the other documents. If the case goes to trial, then your deposition will be given to the court and can be disclosed to the public.

Be prepared that your deposition could become a public record if the case is not settled and moves forward to a trial.

Matt McWilliams

Deposition Academy is an online website created to guide those in the legal videographer industry or those interested in starting a legal videography business. The site has expanded to cover a variety of legal topics that are related to depositions and the deposition process. Our team of writers have written for a variety of legal blogs and website.