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Interrogatories are written questions submitted from one side in a legal case to the other for the purpose of clarifying facts related to the case, the charges, and the pleading. They are a part of the pretrial preparation process, used to help people develop a case for court. Typically, the law limits the number of interrogatories each side can present, although a judge can be petitioned to grant an exception if it is necessary, and people have 30 days to respond when served with a set of questions.
People cannot use interrogatories to force the other side to disclose privileged information. People can refuse to answer them on the grounds that they violate privilege or are not necessary to the case. The legal system has protections in place designed to prevent people from using interrogatories as a tool for abuse. One side could drown the other in a pile of paperwork with nuisance questions if there were no controls in place.
Each interrogatory must be carefully and precisely worded. The opposing attorneys will go over the questions carefully and take care to answer the question as presented without providing additional information. “Were you driving on October 18th?” would be a poor interrogatory, as someone could say “Yes” without providing any meaningful information. “On October 18th, were you driving your vehicle on Lanyard Street at approximately 4 p.m.?” is a more useful question, provoking an answer that will provide more detail and precision.
If a person chooses not to answer an interrogatory on the grounds of relevance, the other side can appeal to the judge to compel an answer. The judge will review the logic behind the question, consider the case as presented, and determine whether the question has to be answered. Judges may reject questions if they feel they are not relevant or are too vague. People can resubmit a question with better wording if they run into this problem.
Getting a list of interrogatories can be intimidating. People should make sure to go over the questions with their lawyers to find out what they have to answer and to craft the most appropriate answers. People cannot lie on interrogatories, but they are not required to compromise themselves or their cases while answering the questions. If a question doesn't specifically require a particular admission, there's no need to provide it; attorneys can help their clients avoid giving the other side free ammunition.