In a criminal case, discovery is the process of obtaining copies of the important documents from the State. Depending on the case, there may be tens of thousands of pages for the lawyer to review. In one of our pending federal criminal cases we have over 14,000 pages of reports, and thirty or so hours of video and audio recordings! A ladder might be just the ticket.
The discovery rules require the prosecutor to turn over the investigative reports, witness statements, accused’s statement to the police, seized documents and other information about the case so that we can review them to prepare for trial. In Ada County most discovery from the State comes one of three ways: by voluntary disclosure, by request, or if needed – by filing a motion to compel discovery.
Here is the key thing to remember about discovery: a person facing a criminal charge has an absolute constitutional right to discovery so that he or she can prepare for trial or settlement of the case. Get it, review it, and decide how to use it.
Once we get the discovery, we review the documents and use the information to help us determine the strength of the case. There will likely be statements taken by police officers investigating the case. There may be audio recordings and video recordings, photos, illustrations and reports. And if the accused has made a statement to the police, that statement must be provided for our review. The defendant’s criminal record will be included, as will any expert or scientific reports.
Our clients need to see and review the case materials so that we can have a meaningful discussion about whether this case should be tried or settled. Based on the discovery materials we review, we will likely make a recommendation as to how we can best proceed.
If there are matters disclosed in discovery that may not be permissible evidence against our client, we may file a motion "in limine" to keep that evidence from being admitted at trial. The same is true of evidence that we believe was unlawfully seized or obtained – we may file a motion to suppress the evidence or statements of the accused. So discovery in a criminal case is an important tool for the criminal defense lawyer to use in assisting his or her client.
Have a discovery question? Wonder whether the search of your property was lawful? Give us a call.