Objections in a Criminal Trial

"I object, Your Honor. This trial is a travesty of a mockery of a sham of a travesty of two mockeries of a sham! "
                          Woody Allen as Fielding Mellish (Bananas 1971)    
I object. The exhibit is confusing, unfairly prejudicial, misleading, irrelevant, barred by the exclusionary rule, and not a fair and accurate representation of what it purports to represent.

I don't make the rules. I just play by 'em.

If you want to play the game, you had better know the rules of the game.
And if you want your opponent to play by the rules, you'll not only have to recognize the infraction, you'll have to complain to the referee and tell him/her exactly which rule was violated by the opposition.

In a trial, if the opposing counsel ask an improper question or a question that calls for an improper answer, you must object before the witness answers the question.

There will be no ruling by the court excluding or admitting evidence unless you or opposing counsel objects. The only consequence for the prosecutor's failure to object is that the jury will hear the evidence that may or may not be admissible. Just because one side objects does not mean they are right. The judge acts as a referee and makes a determination. It goes something like this.

Prosecutor to Witness on the stand: Who killed Valerie Victim?
Witness: Danny defendant, I know because my b/f/f told me that her baby daddy's cousin said someone in the neighborhood told her they saw him do it.

Defense attorney: Objection, your honor. This is triple hearsay . This witness cannot testify to what someone else said or what she may have heard. She can only testify to acts that she actually witnessed.

Judge: Madame Prosecutor, do you have a response.
Madame Prosecutor: Yes judge, each of the acts of hearsay falls within one of the exceptions.

Judge: Okay, I can see that we are going to need to discuss this outside of the presence of the jury and perhaps proffer testimony and hold an evidentiary  hearing, so Mr. Bailiff would you please escort the jury out of the courtroom and at this time we will take a 30 minute break.  (jury rolls eyes & shuffle around, sighs, moans and groans can be heard because this is like the third time they have had to leave the courtroom and it is not even noon)

The judge will then hear argument by both sides. This is obviously done outside the presence of the jury so they will not hear evidence that may be inadmissible.


The judge will then make a ruling.  If he agrees with the side making the objection (the side opposing the question asked) he will say on the record:  "The objection is sustained" 

 this means that the lawyer who asked the question may not ask the question.  That lawyer will object to the court's ruling.  Most of the time, because the judge knows that the losing party must object to his ruling in order to preserve the right to appeal the issue (this applies mostly to the defense attorney because the prosecutor cannot appeal a loss~ a not guilty verdict), the judge will just say , "your objection to the court's ruling is noted". This saves time and the court reporter knows to put it in the official trial transcript.

If the judge does not agree with the side who makes the objection, the he will state on the record, "Objection overruled". 

The prosecutor does not have any real consequences for failure to object or failure to object to the court's ruling.

Objections are a much more delicate issue for defense attorneys.  They are often faced with a situation of whether they even want to object or not. An attorney who continues to object to everything (especially if they lose) risk appearing to the the jury that they are trying to hide information or evidence from the jury.  For this reason, a seasoned attorney will make a tactical decision not to object to the prosecutor's improper question if the answer does not hurt his client or the case.

The problem arises when a defense attorney fails to make a contemporaneous objection. The objection must be made as the objectionable issue is happening. Attorneys have a good idea how a particular judge will rule and can tell beforehand when the judge is likely to rule against them. The attorney, however, must object anyway, if they want the judge's erroneous ruling to be one of the issues of the appeal if their client is found guilty and convicted.

             Be sure to visit the other bloggers who are participating in the A to Z blogging challenge.


  1. I'm sure the jury is just thrilled with objections that must be discussed!

  2. Excellent info! I learned a lot about this from obsessively watching the Casey Anthony trial lol. 

  3. OMG!  This is SO educational and FUN!  So glad I found you.

    Lead on!  I am following.

  4. Great info Melissa! Love the addition of Judge Judy--even her photo entertains me. :)

  5. Hey- a really interesting blog! Lots to learn from it. Where do you find the time???!  Visiting for the a-z. Hope you're enjoying it!

  6. Oh boy! Now, I'm reliving my uneventful and tiresome day in Jury Duty yesterday. I suppose that shall be my A to Z Challenge topic for the letter J next year. How dare you incite such memories! lol. That photo of Judge Judy makes up for it tho ;)

  7. Totally enjoy your posts.  Keep 'em coming.

  8. Reminds me of that part in Duck Soup:

    Prosecutor : Chicolini, you are charged with high treason, and if found guilty, you will be shot.Chico : I object.

    Prosecutor : You object? On what grounds?

    Chico : I couldn’t think of anything else to say.

    Groucho : Objection sustained.Prosecutor : Your majesty, you sustain the objection?

    Groucho : Sure, I couldn’t think of anything else to say either.

  9. So you're saying that what I saw in Legally Blonde was mostly correct? Crazy! :)

  10. This is so very interesting, Melissa.
    I've always liked court life (from the side of a judge or a lawyer, that is :)
    Thank you so much for explaining!
    Reading the few examples you made, it seems to me a lawyer has to be a very skilled improviser, alert and focused at all time, and they must have a great mind-spoken word coordination!

    Great post and very clear explanations!
    Thank you!

  11. Oh man! This makes me realize how much I could NOT be an attorney! So much to know! But I love it! I love to watch this kind of thing in movies. It's so intense! "I object!" One of the best things they can say!!! :)

  12.  Thank you. I am going to do my best to shorten them.

  13.  Jury duty can suck, I know. I can only imagine how long and tedious it must seem, but thank god there are people who recognize that it has to be done or our system won't work.

  14.  Thanks for visiting. I guess being a lawyer really helped my theme. I didn't have any real research to do.

  15.  Thanks, Coleen. Judge Judy has always entertained me.

  16.  Thank you Jayne. Glad to have you aboard.

  17.  I was obsessed with the Casey Anthony trial also.

  18.  I can see the hate and disgust in there eyes every time they are asked to leave the courtroom.

  19.  I know, it is a powerful phrase. It stops the flow of the trial. That is the only reason attorneys do it sometimes. When we have no legal ground to object we still do it to interrupt the flow of the other side's case.

  20.  Thank you for visiting Jay. You are right, it is often a test of who is the quickest on their feet.

  21. "...I know because my b/f/f told me that her baby daddy's cousin
    said someone in the neighborhood told her they saw him do it."
    Hah! Oh, Melissa, you kill me. :D I'm loving your A-Z theme, by the way. Thank you for sharing!

  22. Yeah, that's what I was thinking for a few moments during the jury selection process that day. I figure, this is the price we pay....we have rights to a fair trial and due process and whatnot, so that means we mustn't complain when we're called on to take part in a system that our country has in place. 

    I didn't like sitting there and going back and forth between court rooms all day but hey, I got to meet new people...albeit not in the best of settings, lol, but it was a new experience nonetheless.

  23. Great Article it its really informative and innovative keep here: with new updates. Its was really valuable. Thanks a lot. newjerseyattorneysearch.com


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