Whenever a legal matter is involved, nothing about it should be considered speedy. If you are about to be facing a judge and jury for a criminal charge, you might be less than enthused about the lack of progress. Trials often involve a long, drawn-out process, and scheduling such an event with all the parties that have to be on the same page can be a challenge. Beyond those issues are pretrial procedures, the most important and lengthy of which is known as discovery. Trials cannot begin until discovery is complete. Read on to find out more.
Discovery is all about being prepared, and that goes for both you and the other side. Trials are built on cases and, usually, the amount of information needed to put on a case is staggering. To present this load of information at a trial, with some of it being important but much of it not, would cause a trial to be bogged down in minutiae. The purpose of discovery is to bring all known information about a case to the forefront and share it with the other side. Then, each side can build their case based on all the information. Trials, once they begin, are seldom interrupted by new witnesses or evidence, in spite of what you may have seen on film.
Criminal Case Discovery
If you have been charged with a crime and opt to take your case to court (rather than accept a plea bargain), discovery will involve the sharing of information via several methods. That might include:
- Interrogatories in which questions are presented and answered.
- Depositions where witnesses and defendants (you) are questioned out loud and under oath.
- Document exchanges where documents are requested and passed back and forth. The word "documents" can be stretched to include photographs, emails, texts, flash drives, receipts, and more.
Benefits of Discovery
Besides making trials shorter and more to the point, discovery presents a number of other advantages.
- As facts of the case against you emerge during discovery, your criminal defense lawyer can learn what the state has against you in evidence. That allows the attorney to fight that with your side's evidence. For instance, if you find out that the state can place you at the scene of a crime through witness testimony, your lawyer can prepare to "impeach" that witness at the trial.
- Plea bargains may get better as discovery proceeds. If the evidence emerging during discovery looks bad for the state, they may want to save face by offering you a plea deal (hopefully, a deal that is better than a previous deal).
To find how you will participate in discovery before your trial, speak to your criminal defense lawyer.