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At the Hearing

When would I object to specific kinds of evidence?

The kind of evidence the other party is trying to give the judge will affect when and how you make an objection. Normally, an objection is made by simply saying, “I object,” or, “Objection.” If the reason for the objection is obvious, then the judge may make a ruling without making you explain why you are objecting. If the reason for your objection is not obvious, you should be prepared to explain the reason why you are objecting.

Testimonial evidence

You can object at any point while a witness is testifying. This can be during or after a question, while the witness answers the question, or immediately after the witness finishes answering but before the next question is asked.

You can object during or after the question if the question itself is objectionable or if it calls for an answer that is objectionable. For example, the direct examination question is leading; a question calls for hearsay; or the witness does not have personal knowledge of what is being asked so the question calls for speculation.

You may object while the witness answers the question or after the answer is complete if the question itself is not objectionable, but while answering it, the witness says something that is objectionable. For example, the witness mentions that s/he heard from someone who heard from someone that something happened. This kind of response is most likely hearsay and you can interrupt the witness to object while the witness is answering or object immediately after the witness finishes answering. Note: If there is a jury, you should try to object as quickly as possible so that the jury doesn’t hear any objectionable testimony that they would have to try to forget.

Documentary or physical evidence

Parties have to go through a process to enter documentary or physical evidence into the court record. During that process, the party that is entering the evidence will show the document, item, etc., to the other party so that s/he can examine the document. At this point, you can object to the evidence by saying “Objection” and explaining why you feel the evidence should be kept out of the record. If you don’t have a reason to object at the moment that the evidence is first shown to you, it’s possible that you may come up with a reason to object after the witness is questioned about the evidence. The party entering the evidence may ask the judge for “permission to enter the evidence into the record” or may “offer the document marked for identification as Exhibit A into evidence.” This is another opportunity for you to object to the evidence. At this point, the judge might ask if you have any objections to the item being entered into evidence but if the judge doesn’t ask, you can still object. Be prepared to explain why the evidence should or should not be admitted.

Demonstrative evidence (charts, diagrams, etc.)

Because demonstrative evidence is usually a combination of testimony and documentary evidence, how you object will depend on what is actually happening in court. Sometimes a witness might draw a diagram in court and then the party questioning the witness may ask to admit the diagram into evidence. You may be able to object while the witness is testifying and drawing the diagram, or you could object at the point where the other party tries to enter the diagram into evidence. Sometimes an opposing lawyer or party may prepare demonstrative evidence ahead of time, which could be slideshows, poster boards, etc., and will ask for it to be admitted into the record as evidence but not during anyone’s testimony. If this is the case, you can object to the evidence being entered into the record at the time the opposing party offers it into evidence.

Keep in mind that for any form of evidence explained above, an objection should only be made if it is objectionable. In other words, there must be a reason for your objection, such as one of the ones listed in What are some common objections?