Voir dire is a legal term that refers to the process of questioning prospective jurors to determine their qualifications and suitability to serve on a jury in a particular case. The term “voir dire” is derived from French and means “to speak the truth.” This process is an essential part of jury selection and is used to identify any potential biases, prejudices, or conflicts of interest that may affect a juror’s ability to fairly and impartially decide the case.
During voir dire, attorneys from both sides (prosecution and defense) have the opportunity to question potential jurors. The goal is to ensure that the selected jury will be fair and unbiased, and that jurors can render an impartial verdict based solely on the evidence presented during the trial.
Attorneys may ask potential jurors about their background, experiences, beliefs, and any potential connections to the case or parties involved. The judge may also ask questions to ensure that the jurors meet the legal requirements for jury service.
After the questioning, attorneys may exercise peremptory challenges (the right to dismiss a certain number of potential jurors without stating a reason) or challenge jurors for cause (if there is a specific reason to believe a juror cannot be impartial). The final selected jury is expected to fairly consider the evidence presented during the trial and reach a verdict based on the law and facts of the case.
A voir dire may also be used as a pre-trial procedure to determine the admissibility of particular evidence. It occurs when one party challenges the admissibility of evidence the other party proposes to adduce. A voir dire consists of the court making findings of fact and applying the law after hearing evidence and submissions.
Voir dires can occur in criminal and in civil matters. It will occur when it is necessary for a judge or magistrate to determine questions of evidence law prior to a trial or contested hearing. A voir dire can be used, for example, to determine whether an admission was made voluntarily, whether a witness is entitled to claim privilege, or whether a police search was conducted lawfully.