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  • Writer's pictureBrad Thornton

San Antonio Criminal Defense Attorney: Top 7 Objections in a Criminal Trial


As a criminal defense attorney in Texas, I have had the opportunity to represent clients in a wide range of cases and handle a diverse set of objections that may arise during trial. In this blog post, I will be discussing the top 7 objections that may come up in a criminal trial in Texas. These objections include Leading, Calls for Speculation, Hearsay, Relevance, Argumentative, Non-Responsive, and Narrative objections.


It is important to understand these objections and how they may impact your case, as they can play a crucial role in the outcome of a trial. Whether you are a defendant or a prosecutor, understanding these objections will help you be better prepared for the trial and make informed decisions.


In the following sections, I will provide an overview of each of these objections, how they are used in the courtroom, and the implications they may have on the outcome of your case.


Leading the Witness


Leading objections are one of the most common objections that may come up in a criminal trial in Texas. A leading objection is raised when a question is asked in a way that suggests an answer to the witness. This type of question is prohibited in criminal trials as it goes against the rules of fairness and impartiality.


An example of how a leading objection could come up in a criminal trial is as follows:


The prosecutor is questioning a witness about the defendant's alleged involvement in a robbery. The prosecutor asks, "Did you see the defendant robbing the store?" This question is leading as it suggests to the witness that the defendant was involved in the robbery, and the answer will likely be "yes."


If the defense attorney objects to this question on the grounds of being leading, the judge will likely sustain the objection and instruct the witness not to answer. The prosecutor will then have to rephrase the question to be less leading, such as, "What did you observe at the store?"


Calls for Speculation


Calls for speculation objections are raised when a question asks a witness to speculate or guess about a fact or event that they do not have direct knowledge of. In a criminal trial, only testimony based on personal knowledge and observation is allowed, and speculation is considered unreliable and inadmissible.


An example of how a call for speculation objection could come up in a criminal trial is as follows:


The prosecutor is questioning a witness about the defendant's alleged involvement in a drug trafficking operation. The prosecutor asks, "Do you think the defendant was in charge of the drug trafficking operation?" This question is a call for speculation as it asks the witness to guess about the defendant's role in the operation without having any direct knowledge of it.


If the defense attorney objects to this question on the grounds of being a call for speculation, the judge will likely sustain the objection and instruct the witness not to answer. The prosecutor will then have to rephrase the question to be based on the witness's personal knowledge and observation, such as, "What did you observe about the defendant's involvement in the drug trafficking operation?"


By recognizing when a question is a call for speculation and objecting to it, defense attorneys can ensure that only reliable and admissible evidence is presented in court, helping to protect their client's rights and ensure a fair trial.


Hearsay


Hearsay is a statement made out of court that is offered in court to prove the truth of the matter asserted. In a criminal trial, hearsay evidence is generally not admissible as it is considered unreliable and does not provide the opportunity for cross-examination.


However, there are several exceptions to the hearsay rule, including:


Present Sense Impression: This exception allows statements made during or immediately after an event that describe or explain the event.


Excited Utterance: This exception allows statements made while the speaker was under the stress of a surprising event.


Then-Existing Mental, Emotional, or Physical Condition: This exception allows statements that describe a declarant's then-existing state of mind, emotion, or physical condition.


Statement Made for Medical Diagnosis or Treatment: This exception allows statements made for the purpose of seeking medical diagnosis or treatment.


It is important to note that the defendant's statements are not hearsay in a criminal trial as they are considered "party admissions." This means that statements made by the defendant are admissible as evidence against them as they are considered an admission of guilt.


An example of how hearsay can come up in a criminal trial is as follows:


The prosecution is trying to introduce a statement made by a witness who is not available to testify. The statement is that the defendant confessed to the crime. However, the defense objects on the grounds of hearsay. The prosecution argues that the statement falls under the exception of excited utterance as it was made immediately after the crime.


The judge will then consider the objection and determine if the statement falls under any of the exceptions to the hearsay rule. If it does, the statement may be admitted as evidence. If not, the statement will not be considered by the jury in making its decision.


Relevance


Relevance is a key concept in a criminal trial, as evidence must be relevant to the charges or issues in the case in order to be admissible. Relevant evidence is defined as evidence that has a tendency to make a fact more or less probable than it would be without the evidence.


The relevance of evidence is determined by the Federal Rules of Evidence, specifically Rule 401, which 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 probable or less probable than it would be without the evidence."


However, even if evidence is relevant, it may still be excluded if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues, or misleading the jury, or by considerations of undue delay, or needless presentation of cumulative evidence. This is determined by Rule 403, which provides that relevant evidence may be excluded if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice.


Additionally, Rule 404 provides that evidence of a person's character or character trait is not admissible to prove that on a particular occasion the person acted in accordance with the character or trait. This means that evidence of a person's past actions or reputation cannot be used to prove that they committed the crime charged in the case.


An example of how relevance issues might come up in a criminal trial is as follows:


The prosecution is trying to introduce evidence that the defendant has a history of violence. The defense objects on the grounds of relevance, arguing that this evidence is not relevant to the charges of drug trafficking. The prosecution argues that the evidence is relevant as it shows the defendant's propensity for violence, which is relevant to the charges.


The judge will then consider the relevance of the evidence and determine if it has any tendency to make a fact more or less probable. If the judge determines that the evidence is relevant, the judge will then consider the probative value of the evidence and determine if it is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice. If the judge determines that the probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, the evidence will be excluded.


Argumentative


An argumentative objection is a type of objection that is raised when a question is asked in a way that advocates a particular point of view or implies a conclusion that the witness is being asked to draw. This type of objection is often raised when a lawyer is trying to lead the witness or suggest the answer they want to hear.


In a criminal trial, argumentative objections may come up when a lawyer is trying to ask a witness a leading question or when a lawyer is trying to make an argument through a question rather than presenting evidence. For example:


Prosecutor: "Isn't it true that the defendant was seen at the scene of the crime with a gun in his hand?"

Defense Attorney: "Objection, argumentative."

The defense attorney objects to the question because it implies that the defendant was seen with a gun, which is a conclusion that the witness should not be asked to draw. The prosecutor is advocating a particular point of view and the question is not neutral.


The judge will then determine whether the question is argumentative and, if so, sustain the objection. This means that the witness will not be allowed to answer the question and the jury will not consider the evidence.


Non-Responsive


A non-responsive objection is a type of objection that is raised when a witness gives an answer that is not responsive to the question that was asked. This type of objection is raised when a witness goes off on a tangent or provides information that is not relevant to the question being asked.


In a criminal trial, non-responsive objections may come up when a witness is giving an answer that is not directly related to the question that was asked. For example:


Prosecutor: "Can you tell the jury what the defendant said to you on the day of the incident?"

Witness: "Well, the defendant and I had a conversation about his dog and how it needed to be walked."

Defense Attorney: "Objection, non-responsive."

The defense attorney objects to the witness's answer because it is not directly related to the question that was asked. The witness is giving information about a conversation about the defendant's dog, which is not directly related to the defendant's statement on the day of the incident.


The judge will then determine whether the answer is non-responsive and, if so, sustain the objection. This means that the witness's answer will not be considered by the jury and the witness will be asked to answer the question directly.


Narrative


A narrative objection is a type of objection that is raised when a witness is giving an answer in the form of a story or narrative rather than simply answering the question asked. This type of objection is raised when a witness provides information that is not directly relevant to the question being asked or when a witness is giving a lengthy, detailed account of events that is not necessary.


In a criminal trial, narrative objections may come up when a witness is providing a detailed account of events that is not directly relevant to the question being asked. For example:


Prosecutor: "Can you describe what you saw the defendant do on the night of the robbery?"


Witness: "Well, I was walking home from the grocery store and I saw the defendant and his friends hanging out in front of the convenience store. I walked past them and I noticed that the defendant was wearing a hoodie and had his face covered. I thought it was a little strange, so I decided to cross the street to avoid them. As I walked away, I heard a loud crash and then I saw the defendant run out of the convenience store with a bag in his hand. He jumped into a car that was parked nearby and they drove away."


Defense Attorney: "Objection, narrative."


The defense attorney objects to the witness's answer because it is in the form of a story and includes information that is not directly relevant to the question being asked. The witness is giving a detailed account of events leading up to the defendant's actions during the robbery, but the only relevant information is what the defendant actually did on the night of the robbery.


The judge will then determine whether the answer is in the form of a narrative and, if so, sustain the objection. This means that the witness will be asked to answer the question directly and only provide the relevant information about what the defendant did on the night of the robbery.


The judge will then determine whether the answer is in the form of a narrative and, if so, sustain the objection. This means that the witness will be asked to answer the question directly and only provide the relevant information.


San Antonio Criminal Defense Attorney Brad Thornton



San Antonio Criminal Defense Attorney Brad Thornton
Attorney Brad Thornton

The objections raised during a criminal trial play a crucial role in ensuring that the trial is fair and that only relevant and admissible evidence is presented to the jury. Understanding the different types of objections, including leading, calls for speculation, hearsay, relevance, argumentative, non-responsive, and narrative objections, is essential for both prosecutors and defense attorneys in preparing and presenting their cases.


If you have been charged with a crime in San Antonio, it is important to have an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. Attorney Brad Thornton, a former chief prosecutor and Board-certified criminal defense attorney, has the knowledge and experience to help you navigate the criminal justice system and defend your rights. Call 210-439-5627 today for a free consultation.

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