Deposition Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Deposition, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Deposition?

n. Testimony taken and recorded away from the courtroom before a trial, of a witness under oath before a court reporter. Depositions are part of the trial’s investigation, scheduled by an attorney whose client in a lawsuit demands the sworn testimony of the opposing defendant or plaintiff, an event’s witness, or an expert that the opposition intends to call. Notice of the time and location for the deposition can be provided to the other side’s attorney if the deponent (person requested to testify) is a party to the lawsuit or someone who works for an involved party. A subpoena must be served on the witness if they are an independent third party who is reluctant to testify. The court reporter records the testimony and prepares a transcript which assists in the trial preparation and can be used to contradict or refresh a witness’s memory.

History and Meaning of Deposition

Depositions are an integral part of legal proceedings in which sworn testimony is taken from a witness or involved party before the trial. These testimonies are taken in a setting that is usually informal, and the witness is under oath, much like it would be in court. This evidence carries the same legal weight as an in-court testimony and often included as evidence used in trial. The process of deposition serves as part of the trial's investigation and can be requested by attorneys in lawsuits in order to get an idea of the merit of their case.

Examples of Deposition

  1. In a personal injury case, the attorney for the defendant would want to depose the plaintiff to determine the strength of their claim.
  2. In a criminal investigation, a detective may wish to depose a witness that they cannot bring to trial for some reason.
  3. In a divorce proceeding, the parties involved may wish to depose the custody evaluator to determine the impartiality of the evaluation.

Legal Terms Similar to Deposition

  1. Interrogatories: written questions that must be answered in writing under oath.
  2. Subpoena: a formal order issued by the court to compel a person to testify or to produce evidence.
  3. Affidavit: a written statement made under oath and whose truthfulness is sworn before a notary or other officer of the court.