Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Voir Dire 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.


Categories & Topics:

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!