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What are leading questions in criminal trials?

Washington residents who are facing criminal charges and who plan to go to trial may have heard about leading questions and wonder what they are. These are questions that are asked by criminal defense lawyers of witnesses at certain times during the trial. Leading questions are designed to elicit responses from the witnesses by leading them to the answers. In many cases, the answer to a leading question will either be yes or no.

Leading questions are used by lawyers in order to allow them to indirectly testify through the questions that they ask. By the way that the questions are structured, they don't let witnesses qualify the answers that they give. This can be very effective in front of juries.

With a few exceptions, leading questions are not allowed on direct examinations of witnesses, which is when the defense or the prosecution calls the witness to the stand in the presentation of their own cases. During direct examinations, attorneys normally must use open-ended questions. There are a few exceptions that the courts can use to allow leading questions during direct examinations. These include to get basic background information, to get information from witnesses who are hostile or adverse to the questioner's case or to get information from witnesses who have some type of incapacity that makes it difficult for them to testify. Leading questions are allowed on cross-examination when attorneys are questioning the witnesses who have already testified.

People who are charged with crimes and who plan to represent themselves should be aware that they will be expected to follow all of the same rules that criminal defense lawyers do at trial. They may benefit by seeking help from a criminal defense lawyer who understands the legal requirements and who may help to build a strong case.

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