During a criminal trial, defense attorneys are responsible for asking questions during both direct and cross-examinations.
Direct examination is when the defense attorney questions their own witnesses, while cross-examination is when the defense attorney questions the prosecution’s witnesses.
During direct examination, defense attorneys will often ask short, open-ended questions in order to elicit favorable testimony from their witnesses.
On cross-examination, defense attorneys may ask more pointed and direct questions in order to trip up witnesses or catch them in lies.
Either way, defense attorneys are always looking to ask questions that will help their case and damage the prosecution’s.
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Questions Defense Attorneys Would Ask a Witness
Some examples of questions that a defense attorney might ask during direct examination include:
- Can you describe the defendant’s demeanor on the day of the incident?
- Did the defendant seem intoxicated or under the influence of drugs?
- What was the defendant wearing at the time?
- Did the defendant say anything to you before or after the incident?
- What is your relationship to the defendant?
- Do you have any reason to lie or be biased against the defendant?
On cross-examination, defense attorneys will often try to impeach witnesses by asking questions that cast doubt on their memory, character, or credibility. For example, a defense attorney might ask a witness:
- How long ago did the incident occur?
- Were you under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time?
- What was your exact location when you saw the incident?
- How many people were there?
- Did you get a good look at the defendant?
Leading questions are questions that suggest the answer that the person asking the question wants to hear. Defense attorneys will sometimes use leading questions to try to trip up witnesses or get them to give answers that help the defense. For example, a defense attorney might ask a witness:
- Weren’t you angry with the victim when the incident occurred?
- Didn’t you see the victim hit first?
- Weren’t you afraid that the victim was going to hurt you?
Leading questions are generally not allowed on direct examination, but they are allowed on cross-examination. If a witness is ever asked a leading question, they can object to it. However, the judge will usually allow the question to be asked anyway and will just tell the jury to disregard it if it is improper.
Another type of question that defense attorneys ask is a hypothetical question. A hypothetical question is a question that is not based on anything that actually happened, but is based on what could have happened. For example, a defense attorney might ask a witness, “If the victim had hit you first, would you have hit back?” Hypothetical questions are generally not allowed on direct examination, but they are allowed on cross-examination.
Learn more about cross-examination vs. direct examination here.
Questions To Ask Your Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have been charged with a crime, it is important that you ask your criminal defense attorney some key questions. This will help you to better understand the charges against you and what to expect during your criminal case.
- What are the specific charges against me?
- What are the possible penalties if I am convicted of the charges?
- What are the weaknesses in the prosecution’s case against me?
- What are the likely defenses that can be used in my case?
- What are the risks and benefits of going to trial?
- What are the risks and benefits of pleading guilty?
- What are the likely outcomes of my case if I go to trial?
- What are the likely outcomes of my case if I plead guilty?
- What are the pros and cons of testifying in my own defense?
- Should I take the stand and testify in my own defense?
- What should I do if the prosecutor offers me a plea bargain?
- Should I accept a plea bargain?
- What will happen if I go to trial and am found guilty?
By getting a better understanding of your charges and what you are actually being faced with, you can be better prepared to make decisions about your case. If you are unsure of what to do, it is important to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help guide you through the process and ensure that your rights are protected.
Learn more on how to prepare for an initial consultation with an attorney here.
MZJ — Defense Attorneys You Can Rely On
If you have been arrested or are under investigation for a crime, it is important to have an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. The attorneys at MZJ have the knowledge and experience to aggressively defend your rights and fight for the best possible outcome in your case. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.