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What is a Hostile Witness?

By Andrew Lu | Last updated on

There is a lot of misconception as to just who is a hostile witness.

While a hostile witness is "hostile" to an attorney's cause, hostile witnesses typically are witnesses the attorney has called himself.

So unlike the cross examination of an opposing party witness, a hostile witness is directly examined by the attorney.

You may be wondering why an attorney would call a witness hostile to his case. The answer is that oftentimes the attorney does not know what the witness will say.

The witness may have given misleading information or the witness may have simply changed his mind. In other cases, the attorney may have no other witness available, but a hostile witness. If either is the case, the attorney will usually have to request the court to recognize the witness as hostile.

When a court recognizes a witness as hostile, the rules of cross examination get switched up. Generally, an attorney is not allowed to ask certain questions like leading questions of witnesses they call.

A leading question is a question that would elicit a "yes" or "no" answer. Typically, these questions are not allowed on direct, as an attorney could coach the witness to a desired answer simply by phrasing the question in a particular way.

However, with a hostile witness, the attorney may ask leading questions. There is no fear that the witness will be coached into an answer.

A hostile witness is really just a legal term that only lawyers are concerned with. Being deemed a "hostile witness" is not necessarily a bad thing, it just means that the rules of questioning have been adjusted. If you have any more questions regarding what is a hostile witness, you may want to contact an attorney.

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