Voir Dire Legal Definition:

A mini-hearing held during a trial on the eligibility of prospective jurors or the admissibility of contested evidence.

Related Terms: Preemptory Challenge , Challenge for Cause , Peremptory Challenge

In a jury trial, a voir dire is conducted on each prospective juror for the purposes of challenges for cause or peremptory challenges:

"After the judge briefly explains the general nature of the case to be tried and introduces the lawyers and parties, the panel of prospective jurors is questioned in a process called voir dire -- French for to speak the truth - to determine if any juror has a personal interest in the case or a prejudice or bias that may wrongly influence his or her role as a juror.

"The attorneys may ask the court to excuse some jurors from the trial. These requests for excuses are called challenges. There are an unlimited number of challenges for cause, where a specific legal reason is given, and a limited number of peremptory challenges, where no reason is given. The system of challenges is designed to allow lawyers to do their best to assure that their clients will have a fair trial."1

In R. v. Brydon, Justice Craig of the British Columbia Court of Appeal used these words:

"(V)oir dire ... generally we refer to it as a trial within a trial.

"It is merely a descriptive phrase to describe a procedure which takes place, namely, a procedure to determine the admissibility of certain evidence.

"In the case of a jury trial, the determination is made in the absence of the jury...."

During trial, a voir dire may also, for example, be convened for an attorney to object to a prospective witness. The court would suspend the trial, immediately preside over a mini-hearing on the standing of the proposed witness, and then resume the trial with or without the witness, or with any restrictions placed on the testimony by the judge as a result of the voir dire ruling.

REFERENCES:

Categories & Topics:

Unless otherwise noted, this page was written by of Duhaime.org

Always looking up definitions? Save time with our search provider (modern browsers only)

If you find an error or omission in Duhaime's Law Dictionary, or if you have suggestion for a legal term, we'd love to hear from you!