What constitutes a leading question?

Until recently, I assumed it was the same as a "loaded question" in a casual context, like a question in a push polls designed to bias the answer. But through answers here, it's become clear to me that the legal meaning of a leading question is something with much more nuance.

I understand that leading questions generally aren't allowed on direct examination, with a few exceptions, but are fine on cross-examination. But I am not understanding the difference between these two formulations:

Leading: You were at Seagull’s Pub the night of October 31st, right?
Not leading: Where were you the night of October 31st?

The former introduces the idea that they were at Seagull's Pub. Is that the only difference? Would it still be a leading question if it was rephrased as, "Were you at Seagull's Pub the night of October 31st?"

If the answer is specific to a jurisdiction, I am especially interested in US law and how it is most often practiced at both the federal and state levels.

1 Answer 1


A "leading question" is a question whose form suggests a possible answer. A non-leading question cannot be answered solely based upon knowledge of the language of the question, instead, a meaningful answer to it must contain facts that are not present in the language of the question.

Hence, for example, "Is your name Andrew?", is a leading question.

"What is your name?" is a non-leading question.

Usually, but not always, a leading question can be answered "yes" or "no."

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