A deponent is a person who gives testimony under oath in a deposition. Depositions are part of the pretrial discovery process, allowing lawyers from both sides to hear testimony and ask questions from someone who has information which pertains to the trial at hand. Someone who has served as a deponent may also be asked to take the stand during the trial as a witness and people should be aware that giving a deposition does not exempt them from also acting as witnesses when the trial gets to court.
Depositions are conducted before trial in private chambers or legal offices. Lawyers from both sides are present, along with the court reporter. The deponent is placed under oath, and then asked to testify on the materials relating to the case. The lawyers have an opportunity to ask questions during the deposition to clarify information or extract additional information from the deponent.
The deponent's testimony is recorded by the court reporter and it becomes part of the material which can be used in the trial. If the deponent is not available to testify at the trial, the deposition can be read into the record. If the deponent testifies as a witness, lawyers may utilize the deposition to guide the testimony; they can also challenge parts of the testimony which conflict with the earlier deposition, or use quotes from the deposition to jog the memory of the witness.
When someone is asked to provide a deposition for a trial, she or he must comply with the summons. If the summons poses a hardship, an alternative solution may be able to be worked out. For example, if a deponent cannot attend the deposition on a given day, arrangements may be made to switch it to a different day which will be easier to attend. Generally, lawyers try to accommodate the needs of deponents to keep them comfortable and to avoid antagonizing them, as the evidence may be more useful when it is willingly provided.
Someone who has not given testimony before may find it helpful to prepare before a deposition by talking to a lawyer to get a better idea of what to expect. Preparation can also include reviewing the material which will be discussed during the deposition so that the deponent can provide clear, accurate testimony. Exactly like a witness on the stand, deponents are required to tell the truth and there can be legal penalties if a deponent lies or provides misleading information in a deposition.