What Can the Opposing Side Ask You During Trial?

Testifying under oath in open court, for most people, is an overwhelming experience. Most clients do not know what to expect during their testimony. The most common question I am asked about trials is “what questions is the other attorney going to ask me?” The answer to that question depends on the issues in your case.
The Illinois Rules of Evidence provide that only relevant evidence is admissible and will be considered by the Judge. Irrelevant evidence will not be considered by the Judge. Therefore, an opposing attorney can only ask you questions that are relevant to the issues in your case. Rule 401 of the Illinois Rules of Evidence defines “relevant evidence “ as “evidence having any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probably or less probable than it would be without the evidence.” This means that, if a piece of evidence would make a fact about your case seem either more true or less true, then it is relevant and the Judge will consider it.
For instance, today I was on trial in a case where we represent the wife. Our client was asking the Court to order her spouse to contribute towards their children’s various expenses such as day care, education, and medical expenses. As a result, the opposing attorney asked her questions regarding what expenses she paid for her children, how much she had paid, who she had paid, and why she had paid these expenses. These were questions that my client was able to answer because she had already paid these expenses.
Therefore, a trial is not a free-for-all where the opposing attorney can ask you any questions he can possibly think of. His questions are limited to those that are relevant to the issues in your case. Although you may be asked questions that you do not know the answers to, or you may forget certain pieces of information during your testimony, it is highly unlikely that the one question you do not know the answer to is going to ruin your case. It is important to remember that most people get nervous and Judges are well aware of this fact. As long as you are familiar with the issues in your case, you will know the answer to the majority of opposing counsel’s questions.

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