In a criminal trial in the state of Oregon, leading questions are allowed in some circumstances and not allowed in others. A leading question is one that suggests the desired answer to the person answering. Lawyers in Oregon may use many different types of questions to bring the information or testimony they want out of a witness, but they are prohibited from using leading questions in some situations.
When leading questions are used, there is a danger that they will result in misleading testimony. For that reason, they are not allowed during direct examination when the lawyer is questioning a witness called by their side. Generally speaking, the lawyer must use open-ended questions on direct examination. Leading questions may be used if the questions relate to simple or uncontested issues so as not to waste time.
Criminal defense lawyers might also use leading questions in situations where the witness’s age, limited intelligence or incapacity causes the witness to have difficulty answering the open-ended questions. They might also lead the witness if the witness is hostile or adverse, which occurs when the witness’s interests could cause them to resist giving truthful testimony.
Leading questions are allowed during cross-examination, i.e., when the lawyer is questioning a witness called by the other side. The reason is that cross-examination is meant to challenge the credibility of witness statements made during direct examination.
In a case where a person has been charged with a crime, a lawyer may be able to help by gathering evidence and questioning witnesses before or during trial. A lawyer who handles criminal defense might help by reviewing documentary evidence, such as police reports and communications, or by targeting weaknesses in the prosecution’s case in order to secure a plea bargain. The charges or potential penalties might be reduced in exchange for a plea.