Are Deposition Transcripts Admissible In Court?

When admissible in court, deposition transcripts can be extremely useful in every phase of the legal process. They capture every detail witnesses state under oath, giving lawyers the details they need to build their case. However, there’s a catch: not all deposition transcripts are approved for use as evidence in court.  

Several factors affect a deposition transcript’s admissibility in court, like relevance, authentication, and adherence to court rules. So, let’s discuss these factors and how lawyers can ensure accurate transcription and proper preservation of deposition testimony for potential use in legal proceedings.

In this article, you’ll learn how:

  • Under Rule 32(a)(3) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, parties can use deposition transcripts to support or oppose motions for summary judgment, demonstrating the presence or absence of factual disputes.
  • Denying a witness access to legal representation during a deposition can result in the deposition testimony being excluded from admission as evidence.
  • Forcing a witness to provide self-incriminating testimony during a deposition can render the transcript inadmissible because it violates the witness’s Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

What Is A Deposition Transcription?

Depositions are often portrayed in media as verbal standoffs rife with palpable tension. In reality, though, most depositions are boring and nothing like TV. However, that does not mean they are no less important in a court proceeding. As a result, capturing every word someone says during a deposition is very important. 

A deposition transcription is a written version of a witness’s sworn, out-of-court testimony during a legal process. Legal transcriptionists create these documents by transcribing the audio recordings from the depositions.

Deposition transcriptions are helpful in the discovery phase of a legal case, as they can help attorneys analyze witness statements more thoroughly. Lawyers can use these transcripts as reference materials during trial preparation and

Potential Uses of Deposition Transcripts In Court

Lawyers may employ deposition transcripts for commonly accepted purposes in judicial proceedings.

UsesDescription
Summary JudgmentSupport or oppose motions by showing the presence or absence of factual disputes.
Trial PreparationReview testimony, identify areas for questioning, and develop strategies.
Jury PresentationPresent relevant transcript portions to provide context or emphasize points.
Expert Witness TestimonyEstablish qualifications, opinions, and basis for expert conclusions.
Settlement NegotiationsInfluence negotiations by revealing case strengths and weaknesses.

Importance of Accurate Deposition Transcription

Accurate transcripts allow attorneys to analyze witness statements and develop strong legal strategies effectively. Well-documented depositions also serve as reliable references during trial preparation and ensure that involved parties have access to the appropriate information. Moreover, accurate transcripts are necessary for appellate review, as they contain a complete record of the deposition testimony.

However, the importance of accuracy is not limited to convenience. The consequences of legal transcription inaccuracies go beyond embarrassed laughter and the promise of correction as soon as possible. 

Attorneys frequently use deposition transcripts in court hearings and other legal proceedings, where errors can have a significantly heavier impact than in other contexts.  

When Are Deposition Transcripts Admissible In Court? 

In certain circumstances, deposition testimonies are admissible in courts under Rule 32(a)(3) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the rule, here is the Cliff Notes version:

Witness Impeachment 

Court proceedings often occur over many months through depositions and hearings. Recording every legal encounter offers tremendous benefits, and here’s a crucial example: A witness’s testimony may be found to be materially inconsistent with prior statements made under oath during a deposition.

In that case, the opposing counsel can use deposition transcripts as evidence to impeach the witness’s credibility.

Such inconsistencies between the sworn accounts will raise significant questions about the reliability of the witness’s statements. In most instances, the court will allow the admission of the deposition transcripts as substantive evidence, enabling the jury to properly assess the witness’s credibility and render a verdict based upon a thorough evaluation of all pertinent testimony.

Recorded Recollection

In cases where a witness experiences difficulty recalling specific details material to the matter at hand during a trial, the court may deem the witness’s previously recorded deposition testimony admissible under the doctrine of recorded recollection.

The transcripts will serve as a record of the witness’s recollection, having been obtained at a time more proximate to the event when the witness’s memory was more vivid and accurate. 

Unavailability of the Witness

Suppose a witness whose testimony is essential to adjudicating a case cannot provide live testimony in court due to various circumstances. In that case, the court may permit the admission of the witness’s deposition transcripts as evidence to ensure that their account is presented for consideration by the court proceedings.

The criteria for establishing unavailability include but are not limited to: instances where the witness lives at a distance exceeding 100 miles from the venue of the trial, is located outside the territorial boundaries of the country, is rendered incapable of appearing due to advanced age, illness, or infirmity, is presently incarcerated, or has since died.

In addition, exceptional circumstances, such as a witness’s refusal to provide testimony despite issuing a valid court order compelling their appearance, may also constitute sufficient grounds for the admission of their deposition testimony in lieu of a live appearance.

Party Admission

Statements made by a party during a deposition may be deemed admissible in court as an exception to the hearsay rule, falling under the “party admissions.” When an individual party to the case provides testimony under oath during a deposition, such statements will be considered to carry substantial evidentiary weight. They may be introduced as evidence in the matter.

The underlying rationale for this exception is that a party is unlikely to make statements contrary to their interests unless they hold a good faith belief in the accuracy of those statements. As a result, the opposing party will retain the right to present the deposition transcript to impeach the party’s credibility or establish certain facts material to the case.

Grounds for Deposition Transcript Inadmissibility

While deposition transcripts may be admissible in legal proceedings, their introduction into evidence is subject to various potential objections that could render them inadmissible, including, but not limited to, the ones below.

Irrelevance

When a party moves to admit deposition testimony as evidence, the court will assess its relevance to the case at the bar. Testimony irrelevant to the disputed issues or lacking a nexus to the claims asserted may be excluded under the Federal Rules of Evidence, which mandate that admissible evidence must tend to make a fact more or less probable and be of consequence in determining the action. 

Counsel may object to introducing irrelevant deposition testimony as it would only waste judicial resources or mislead the legal proceeding.

When the Witness Is Available

The admissibility of deposition transcripts may be contested when the deponent (or the person being deposed) can testify in court. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide that deposition testimony may be used as evidence if the witness is unavailable due to circumstances mentioned in the previous sections.

However, relying on the deposition transcript becomes less necessary if the witness can provide live testimony. Live testimony is generally favored, as it lets legal professionals assess the witness’s credibility firsthand. Also, in-person questioning enables counsel to clarify the statements to understand the evidence better.

Hearsay Rule Violation

The hearsay rule—a cornerstone of the American legal system—bars the admission of out-of-court statements offered to prove the truth. Deposition transcripts containing testimony given under oath outside the courtroom are subject to this rule and may be considered inadmissible absent an applicable exception.

Rule 804(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Evidence allows the admission of “former testimony” when the witness is unavailable, and the party against whoever the testimony is offered had a similar motive to develop the testimony through cross-examination. 

However, failure to satisfy these criteria may result in excluding the deposition transcript as inadmissible hearsay.

Procedural Irregularities

Strict adherence to proper legal procedures is imperative when conducting depositions to ensure the admissibility of the resulting transcripts in court. Failure to comply with the prescribed protocols may result in the deposition testimony being excluded based on procedural irregularities.

Common irregularities include inadequate notice to the parties involved, which deprives them of the opportunity to participate in the deposition, and the deposition officer’s failure to administer the oath to the deponent, which puts doubt on the reliability of the testimony.

Violation of Witness’s Rights

Witnesses possess the right to legal representation during a deposition to protect their legal interests and guard against improper questioning. Denying a witness access to a lawyer may result in excluding the deposition testimony.

Likewise, the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects the right against self-incrimination, permitting witnesses to decline to answer questions that may lead to criminal liability. Therefore, forcing a witness to provide self-incriminating testimony during a deposition can render the transcript inadmissible in court.

Transcripts Created Offshore

Unsurprisingly, outsourcing transcription services to foreign jurisdictions raises significant concerns regarding the reliability of the resulting transcripts. 

That’s because non-native transcribers will almost certainly encounter difficulties with legal terminology, regional accents, or idiomatic expressions. This leads to misinterpretations and inaccuracies in the transcript.

Additionally, obtaining the required certification and authentication of the transcript may prove challenging when the transcription is performed in a different country.

Ditto Transcripts is your best choice for transcription services in the legal industry. We offer the following:

Accuracy

We’re serious about maintaining our 99% accuracy rate in transcription. Rest assured that we accurately transcribe your depositions, conveying witness statements without distortion.

Experience

We’ve been around the block since 2010 and have worked with multiple law firms. Believe me, we’re familiar with terminologies and references. We can guarantee careful handling of deposition recordings.

Flexible Turnaround

We understand that time is gold, so we value your time as well. You get to choose the turnaround times—whatever works for you. We also offer rush pricing for 24- to 48-hour turnaround times. 

Personalized Transcripts

Clients decide which format they’d like their transcripts in. This format helps integrate transcripts into existing systems and processes without tinkering with the format. 

Simply specify your preferred formatting, and we’ll handle the rest. 

Data Security

We’re also very serious about privacy concerns, so we prioritized complying with HIPAA, CJIS, and FINRA regulations. Further, our transcribers sign confidentiality/non-disclosure agreements before starting work for us. Finally, they undergo extensive screening, testing, and criminal background checks before onboarding. 

Competitive Rates for Transcription

Our legal transcription prices run between $1.50 and $5.00 per audio minute. Factors determining the actual price include the number of speakers, audio quality, and the turnaround times required.

ditto transcripts' deposition summary rate table with transcription

We can also create deposition summaries, priced as low as $2.50/page. However, if we also complete the deposition transcript, we can offer a reduced rate of $2.25 per page. We’ll let you know exactly what you’re paying before we process your deposition summary—no surprise fees.

Trusted Service

Various organizations rely on Ditto Transcripts for high-quality transcriptions. Our customer reviews speak for themselves!

24/7 Customer Service

We know customer service is the cornerstone of the most successful businesses and take it very seriously. Our customer service team consists of humans, not robots. You can contact our customer support team anytime with queries about our services.

Utilize Depositions in Court Proceedings With Ditto Transcripts

Maximize your deposition transcripts by working with the best in the business. Experience accurate, high-quality deposition transcripts that can be admissible in court without worrying about errors. Call Ditto now and experience the benefits through our free trial. 

Ditto Transcripts is a CJIS-compliant Denver, Colorado-based transcription services company that provides fast, accurate, and affordable transcripts for individuals and companies of all sizes. Call (720) 287-3710 today for a free quote, and ask about our free five-day trial.

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