What is an objection in court?
What does “I object” mean?
When can party raise an objection and what types of objections are there?
In this article, we will break down the concept of objection in court so you know all there is to know about it.
Are you ready?
Let’s get started!
Meaning of “to object”
When we say “objection” or “to object”, we are referring to the process whereby a lawyer or a party to a legal case objects to allow the opposing party to ask a witness a specific question.
The objection may be for many reasons.
To object is to stop a witness from speaking, prevent the production of evidence or to stop an attorney from asking a question to a witness.
When there is an objection raised, the judge must rule on the objection.
Either the judge will uphold the objection, dismiss it or allow the witness to respond under reserve.
Depending on the rules of procedure of the court you are in, a judge may render a verdict in a slightly different.
Objecting to a question asked to a witness
A lawyer may raise an objection to a question for any of the following reasons:
- It is not permitted to ask the question under the courts of evidence or court procedure
- The question is a leading question and it is not permitted
- The question is confusing
- The question is not worded properly
A trial attorney should ensure to ask proper questions in such a way as to respect the court rules of procedure.
Raising too many objections can backfire.
Objecting to a witness’ answer
In other instances, an attorney can raise an objection with respect to the answer or response of the witness.
If a witness responds broadly, an attorney may object to prevent the witness from steering too far away from the object of the question.
If a witness responds with hearsay and the lawyer thinks that there are grounds for an objection, an objection may be raised.
Another instance of a valid objection to the answer to the witness is when the witness responds with an opinion as opposed to stating a fact.
Objection against the production of evidence
An objection can be raised to prevent the other party from introducing evidence in the record of the court.
If a party introduces evidence in violation of the court rules of procedure, the other party should raise an objection.
Without an objection, the other party is deemed to have accepted the production of the evidence.
Court response to an objection
When an objection is raised by a trial attorney, the judge must render a decision on the objection.
You may have heard in the movies judges say “overruled” or “sustained”.
These are actual terms used in court.
When a judge overrules the objection, it means that it rejects the objection and allows the witness to answer or the question to be asked.
When the judge sustains the objection, it means that he or she agrees with the objection and will stop the question from being asked the way it was asked or the witness from responding in the manner they were responding.
In some other cases, depending on the court rules of procedures, the court may take the objection under reserve.
This means that the court does not decide right away on the objection, will hear the question or hear the answer and then decide on the objection at a later point in time.
What are the reasons to object in court?
Here are some examples of grounds based on which lawyers can object in court:
- The question is confusing
- The witness is arguing the law
- The lawyer is badgering the witness
- Based on the rule of “best evidence”
- It’s a compound question
- The counsel is testifying
- Question is irrelevant
- It’s a leading question
- It’s privilege information
- “Fruit of the poisonous tree” where the evidence was obtained illegally
- “Non-responsive” where the witness is not answering the question
How to object in court
Raising an objection is pretty straightforward.
A party who intends to raise an objection, or the lawyer representing the party, will stand up and say “I object” or just “objection”.
In some cases, the judge will want to objecting party to explain the justification behind the objection.
In other cases, the judge may decide to render a verdict immediately on the objection.
When to raise an objection?
It takes a trial lawyer many years to learn the necessary skills and abilities to properly manage and handle a trial in the courtroom.
Particularly, knowing when to raise a question and remaining alert the entire time is crucial for the overall success of a case.
In some cases, the opposing party may notice that a lawyer does not have the proper ability to handle objections and will raise multiple objections to destabilize the other party.
In other cases, failing to raise an objection at the right time can lead to the introduction of important evidence that may hurt the other party’s case.
A lawyer should pay careful attention as to when to raise an objection.
Typically, you want to raise an objection in the following cases:
- A question is asked is on an irrelevant topic
- A question is leading
- When a lawyer is testifying or suggesting the answer to the witness
- When the introduction of evidence violates rules of procedure
- Introduction of evidence that can be damaging
- Allowing a witness to answer on other topics that can hurt the case
Common types of objections
Let’s look at some common types of objections in more detail.
An objection raised for the argumentative ground is when a lawyer is essentially not asking a question but is rather pleading the law or legal aspects of the case.
In such a case, it’s reasonable to raise an objection based on argumentative grounds to avoid having the lawyer make legal arguments but rather have him or her ask questions intended to gather facts from the witness.
Objection: Calls for speculation
When an objection is raised on the basis of speculation, you’re typically confronted with a scenario when a witness is testifying on a topic that he or she does not have first-hand knowledge of.
The witness is relying on what someone else thought or may have done.
Objection: Opinion and not a fact
A witness may answer a question by stating a personal opinion instead of answer the question.
If an answer does not relate a fact, then an objection a be raised against the opinion of the witness.
A non-responsive objection is when a question was asked to the witness but he or she said something but did not answer the question.
The purpose of this objection is to avoid having the witness speak on a point beyond the scope of the question and introduce unwanted factual elements into the case.
Objection: Asked and answered
The “asked and answered’ objection is pretty self-explanatory.
The question was already asked and the witness has already answered.
The purpose of this objection is to avoid turning in circles and wasting everyone’s time in court or come back on a topic we do not want to open again.
Objection: Rule of “best evidence”
The objection on the “best evidence” rule is when a person is asked to testify on a point when there is better evidence available.
For example, a contract may be filed as evidence to establish the content of the agreement between the parties.
During trial, the lawyer asks questions in order to get the witness to testify as to the content of the contract.
The rule of best evidence says that a contract is better evidence to prove its content than through a witness.
An objection based on the “compound” argument is the lawyer’s question is not one question but many questions posed as one.
The purpose of the objection is to avoid confusing the witness or to have the lawyer clarify what is the actual question.
Objection: Leading question
A leading question is when the lawyer is asking a question in such a way as to suggest the answer to the witness.
A lawyer producing a witness is generally not allowed to ask leading questions.
However, during cross-examination, the opposing counsel may ask leading questions to the witness to attack the credibility of the person or other aspects of their testimony.
This objection is therefore not available in cross-examination.
Frequently Asked Questions on Object in Court
What does it mean to object in trial?
When we say “objection” or “to object”, we are referring to the process whereby a lawyer or a party to a legal case objects to allow the opposing party to ask a witness a specific question. The objection may be for many reasons. To object is to stop a witness from speaking, prevent the production of evidence or to stop an attorney from asking a question to a witness.
Can a defendant object?
Yes, the defendant has the right to object. The ability to object is available to all parties in a court case. A defendant can object when the plaintiff’s lawyer asks a question in violation of the court rules of procedure, intends to produce evidence that is contested or to the answer of a witness.
Why do they say objection in court?
To raise an objection in court, the lawyers or parties will need to say objection and potentially state the reason why they are objecting. When a party raises an objection, he is signalling to the court that there is conduct that violates the court rules of procedure or evidence and the court is required to ponder on the issue.
Do lawyers actually say objection?
Yes, lawyers actually say “objection” or “I object”. Typically, the party objecting will also stand up to formulate the objection. It is done this way so that the lawyer asking the question or witness answering the question can immediately stop allowing the objecting party to state why they believe a court should maintain their objection.