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A deposition is a pre-trial discovery tool commonly used in civil cases. During a deposition, a witness is subjected to pre-trial questioning by attorneys from the opposing side. These interviews are tape recorded and then later reduced by stenographers. The resulting documents are called depositions.

In the United States depositions may be read into evidence at trial if the witness is unable to appear at trial. Since the defendant has the right to be present during depositions and the witnesses are subject to cross-examination during the process, the Confrontation Clause is not triggered by using them as evidence at trial.

A criminal defendant in the United States may not be deposed as they are protected by the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution.


No formal right to depositions prior to trial.


The Canadian system has a similar pre-trial process called "examination by discovery".


No formal right to depositions prior to trial.

United States

Federal System

Depositions are typically not used for every witness in a federal criminal case. However, under Rule 15 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure a witness may be deposed "in order to preserve testimony for trial. The court may grant the motion because of exceptional circumstances and in the interest of justice."[1]


Under Indiana's Criminal Procedure Code, either party may depose a witness to secure testimony prior to trial.

See Evidence


  1. Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, Rule 15