ACTIVE VERSUS PASSIVE VOICE
To understand active and passive voice, look at the following sentences:
The officer returned the money to the driver. The money was returned to the driver by the officer.
The first sentence is written in active voice. â€œOfficerâ€ is the subject, â€œreturnedâ€ is the verb, â€œmoneyâ€ is the object, and â€œdriverâ€ is the indirect object. The â€œofficerâ€ is also the person taking the action of â€œreturningâ€ the money. Sentences written in active voice have the â€œperformerâ€ as the subject of the sentence, with the subject preceding the verb. The second sentence is written in passive voice. In passive voice sentences, the object of the action (the thing or person performed on) comes first, then the verb, and then the â€œperformer.â€
WRITING TIP: Locating the Direct and Indirect Objects
â€¢ To find the direct object in a sentence, ask â€œwhatâ€ or â€œwho.â€
â€¢ To find the indirect object in a sentence, ask â€œto whomâ€ or â€œfor whom.â€
So, to find the direct object in the first sentence, â€œwhatâ€ or â€œwhoâ€ did the officer return? The officer returned the money; thus â€œmoneyâ€ is the direct object.
To find the indirect object, â€œto whomâ€ or â€œfor whomâ€ did the officer return the money? The officer returned the money to the driver; thus â€œdriverâ€ is the indirect object.
Active voice is preferable in legal writing because it makes the sentence more powerful and easier to understand. See whether this is true by reading the two sentences. Which do you prefer? Passive voice is fine for those instances when you do not know or do not want to identify the performer. In the example provided, if you did not know who returned the money you could write:
The money was returned to the driver.
When you edit your writing and you find a sentence in passive voice, rewrite it in active voice. Even if the â€œperformerâ€ is not specifically identified in the sentence, you may be able to identify the performer by the context of the sentence.
Now, rewrite the following sentences in active voice:
1. A conversation between Inciarrano and the murder victim was surreptitiously recorded by the victim.
2. The vehicle was searched and Brandin was subsequently arrested.
3. The decision to deny his motion to suppress was affirmed by the appellate court.
4. The defendant was charged with possession of cocaine.
5. The defendantâ€™s motion to suppress the taped conversation was denied by the trial court.
6. Defendantâ€™s car was stopped and searched by a canine and he was subsequently arrested.
7. Brandin stopped his vehicle in the middle of the street and was approached by two men.
8. Brandin was observed by a deputy of the Street Crimes Unit around 9:15 p.m. in a known narcotics area.
9. The defendant was heard discussing a drug deal and was searched and arrested based on the conversation.
10. The suspect was arrested.
11. The conversation was intercepted and taped illegally by the police officer.
12. The suspectâ€™s conversation was recorded by the police officer.