If you are currently facing criminal charges in the State of Nebraska, and this is your first experience with the criminal justice system, you are likely worried and confused. Unless you have been through the criminal justice system before, it can be intimidating. Trying to navigate the system as a defendant when you are unfamiliar with just about everything can add a tremendous amount of stress to an already stressful situation. The same is true for working with a criminal defense attorney. If you have never before needed one, you likely don’t know what to expect. One step your attorney may take during your case is to schedule a deposition with one of the state’s witnesses. A deposition can be an important part of your defense. With that in mind, a Nebraska criminal defense attorney explains what a deposition is and how it can be used as part of your defense.
The State’s Burden in a Criminal Prosecution
Before going into details about your defense strategy, it is important to make sure you understand some basics about the prosecution of a criminal case. Under the American criminal justice system, the State (through the prosecuting attorney) always has the burden of proving a defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. As such, the prosecutor must be able to prove each and every element of the crime of which you have been accused beyond a reasonable doubt in order to secure a conviction. The State’s burden is a high one; however, it is intended to ensure that innocent people are not convicted of crimes they did not commit.
The State’s Discovery Obligation
Another important facet of the criminal justice system is “discovery.” “Discovery” refers to the exchange of information by the parties in a case. In a criminal case, it means that the State is required to provide the defense with all evidence it intends to introduce at trial against the defendant as well as a list of all witnesses the State plans to call at trial to testify. The State is also required to turn over exculpatory evidence it uncovers. While the defendant is also required to share certain things with the State, the defense is not required to tell the State what its overall defense strategy will be at trial.
What Does It Mean If Your Criminal Defense Attorney Decides to Depose a Witness?
During the preparation stage of your defense your criminal defense attorney may decide to depose one or more of the State’s witnesses. A deposition is a chance to question a witness prior to trial about hat the witness plans to testify to at trial. A deposition takes place outside of the courthouse but the witness is placed under oath, meaning the witness faces perjury charges if he/she lies during the deposition. Moreover, anything said during the deposition can be used to impeach the witness at trial if the witness answers the same question differently at trial. Your attorney will schedule the deposition and file the notice with the court. The prosecuting attorney is then required to present the witness at the time and place scheduled. If the witness fails to show up, your attorney can ask that his/her testimony be excluded from trial. If the witness does appear for the deposition, your attorney will question the witness just as if it were a trial, only in a less formal atmosphere.
The true benefit offered by a deposition is the ability to find out what a witness knows, and/or how the witness will testify, ahead of time. Knowing what a witness will say and how well the witness handles the questioning in general makes planning a defense considerably easier.
Note that while the State may depose defense witnesses as well, the defendant cannot be deposed prior to trial as that is a violation of an accused’s right against self-incrimination.
If you have been charged with criminal offense in the State of Nebraska it is certainly in your best interest to consult with an experienced Nebraska criminal defense lawyer right away. In Nebraska contact Petersen Criminal Defense Law 24 hours a day at 402-509-8070 to discuss your case with an experienced criminal defense attorney.