Proper reasons for objecting to a question asked of a witness include:
- Ambiguous, confusing, misleading, vague, unintelligible: the question is not clear and precise enough for the witness to properly answer
- Arguing the law: counsel is instructing the jury on the law.
- Argumentative: the question makes an argument rather than asking a question
- Asked and answered: when the same attorney continues to ask the same question and they have already received an answer. Usually seen after direct, but not always.
- Asks the jury to prejudge the evidence: the jury cannot promise to vote a certain way, even if certain facts are proved.
- Asking a question which is not related to an intelligent exercise of a peremptory challenge or challenge for cause: if opposing counsel asks such a question during voir dire.
- Assumes facts not in evidence: the question assumes something as true for which no evidence has been shown
- Badgering: counsel is antagonizing the witness in order to provoke a response, either by asking questions without giving the witness an opportunity to answer or by openly mocking the witness.
- Best evidence rule: requires that the original source of evidence is required if available; for example, rather than asking a witness about the contents of a document, the actual document should be entered into evidence
- Beyond the scope: A question asked during cross-examination has to be within the scope of direct, and so on.
- Calls for a conclusion: the question asks for an opinion rather than facts
- Calls for speculation: the question asks the witness to guess the answer rather than to rely on known facts
- Compound question: multiple questions asked together
- Hearsay: the witness does not know the answer personally but heard it from another
- Incompetent: the witness is not qualified to answer the question
- Inflammatory: the question is intended to cause prejudice
- Leading question (Direct examination only): the question suggests the answer to the witness. Leading questions are permitted if the attorney conducting the examination has received permission to treat the witness as a hostile witness. Leading questions are also permitted on cross-examination, as witnesses called by the opposing party are presumed hostile.
- Narrative: the question asks the witness to relate a story rather than state specific facts
- Privilege: the witness may be protected by law from answering the question
- Irrelevant or immaterial: the question is not about the issues in the trial
Proper reasons for objecting to material evidence include:
- Lack of foundation: the evidence lacks testimony as to its authenticity or source
- Fruit of the poisonous tree: the evidence was obtained illegally, or the investigative methods leading to its discovery were illegal
Proper reasons for objecting to a witness's answer include:
- Narrative: the witness is relating a story in response to a question that does not call for one
- Non-responsive: the witness's response constitutes an answer to a question other than the one that was asked, or no answer at all
Example: “Did your mother call?” “Ya. She called at 3:00." Opposing counsel can object to the latter part of this statement, since it answers a question that was not asked. With some concern for annoying the court, counsel will selectively use this to prevent a witness from getting into self-serving answers.