A leading question or suggestive interrogation is a question that suggests the particular answer or contains the information the examiner is looking to have confirmed. Their use is restricted in eliciting testimony in court, to reduce the ability of the examiner to direct or influence the evidence presented. Depending on the circumstances, leading questions can be objectionable or proper.
For example, this question is leading:
- Were you at the movies on the night of July 15?
It suggests what location the witness visited on the night in question. The same question in a non-leading form would be:
- Where were you on the night of July 15?
This form of question does not suggest to the witness the answer the examiner hopes to elicit. Leading questions might instead name a particular person rather than asking “who?”, indicate a specific time rather than asking “when?”, and so on.
Leading questions may often be answerable with a yes or no (though not all yes-no questions are leading). Leading questions are distinct from loaded questions, which are objectionable because they contain implicit assumptions (such as “Have you stopped beating your wife?” indirectly asserting that the subject has beaten her at some point).