Objections 101

Many jurors who sit for their first trials are only familiar with the jury trial process from what they’ve seen on television or in the movies. While many shows and movies portray the process as an intense and fast process, many trials involve a lot of discussion among the attorneys and the judge. Frequently, attorneys from one side will object, or protest, to a question or statement that the opposing party makes, and both sides will have to approach the judge to discuss the objection and to argue their respective sides. The jury will be left out of most of these discussions, but it is still useful to know the various types of objections and what they mean.

There are dozens of types of objections that can be made during a trial, but the list below represents the most common objections jurors may hear:

  1. Objection: Argumentative.
    1. This objection frequently arises when an attorney is questioning a witness who is aligned with the opposing party. An attorney will argue a question is argumentative when it does not call for new facts but merely asks the witness to agree or disagree with a conclusion that the attorney is making or a conclusion that is based on presumed facts.
  2. Objections: Assumes facts not in evidence.
    1. Attorneys will argue this objection when the facts the opposing attorney are discussing have not been officially admitted as evidence.
  3. Objection: Beyond the scope of direct/cross/redirect examination.
    1. In general, witnesses are called to testify only about specific subject matter that they have either witnessed firsthand, have some specific insights or knowledge on, or are an expert about. This objection will be raised when an attorney believes the opposing side is questioning a witness beyond the witness’ specific knowledge.
  4. Objection: Compound question.
    1. Courts prefer to have witnesses answer questions one at a time, in part because it makes reading the transcript later much easier. Attorneys may object when the opposing counsel asks a two- or multi-part question or more than one question at once.
  5. Objection: Confusing/vague/ambiguous
    1. Objections that use these words are fairly straightforward. The attorney objecting believes that the question that was just asked was not asked in a clear or precise way, which will make it difficult for the witness to accurately answer.
  6. Objection: Hearsay
    1. Hearsay is a common objection when a witness is testifying as to what he or she heard a third party say, which is generally not allowed. There are many exceptions to the hearsay rule, so both parties will likely argue why the question should or should not be allowed.
  7. Objection 403.
    1. An objection that raises the number 403 in general implies that the attorney believes the opposing side is raising evidence that will be prejudicial to the jury if the evidence is allowed or the questioning continues.
  8. Objection: Speculative.
    1. Any question that invites a witness to guess about a conclusion is objectionable. A guess is an opinion, and therefore is inadmissible as the judge is ensuring that only facts are admitted for the jury’s consideration.

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