During courtroom scenes in crime dramas, you’ve undoubtedly seen attorneys object to a question asked of a witness by contending that it was leading. California criminal procedures generally prohibit leading questions of a witness, but there are a few exceptions.
What is a leading question?
When it comes to a criminal law trial, a leading question is defined as being worded in such a manner so as to lead or compel a witness to a specific answer desired by the questioner. Many, but not all, leading questions are intended to elicit a yes or no answer. However, not all yes-or-no questions asked of a witness in court are classified as leading.
When are leading questions generally not allowed?
Generally speaking, leading questions are not permitted during what California criminal defense procedural law terms direct examination. Direct examination is when a prosecutor or criminal defense attorney asks questions of their own witnesses.
When are leading questions permitted?
There are a number of situations in which leading questions are permitted. These typically include the following:
- When an attorney is asking questions of a person who has been classified as a hostile witness by the court
- When simple, basic questions or questions about uncontested matters are being asked in the interest of saving time
- When a witness is having difficulty answering questions because of age, infirmity, incapacity, limited intelligence or an issue with communicating more generally
If you need more information about legal questions or any other matter associated with criminal defense, an experienced attorney may answer your questions. A criminal defense lawyer may arrange an initial consultation with you at no cost and no obligation.