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What to know about leading questions

On Behalf of | Jun 11, 2020 | Blog, Criminal Law

Attorneys in Florida and elsewhere may use leading questions in an effort to shape a narrative. Leading questions are almost always answered with a yes or a no, but that is not always the case. Generally speaking, attorneys are not allowed to use this type of question when directly examining their clients. However, a judge may permit them during a direct examination if those queries are related to issues that neither side is contesting.

These types of questions may also be allowed if it makes it easier for a child, an elderly individual or a mentally disabled person to provide testimony. If a witness is considered hostile or adverse, an attorney may be allowed to ask leading questions during direct examination. A hostile or adverse witness is one who may be afraid to testify or has other reasons for potentially providing inaccurate information.

If leading questions are not allowed during a direct examination, legal professionals will typically use open-ended questions. This generally makes it easier for a witness to respond truthfully without saying something that could undermine his or her case. Typically, attorneys are permitted to use leading questions when cross-examining a witness as the point of doing so is to create doubt in the other side’s case.

A criminal defense attorney might use leading questions or other tactics to create doubt in the mind of a judge or juror. This may ultimately lead to an acquittal or gain leverage to negotiate a plea deal. A plea deal could result in much lower penalties. If a defendant is acquitted, their record could be sealed.