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How does the criminal discovery process work?

On Behalf of | Aug 20, 2019 | Firm News | 0 comments

Should you find yourself accused of allegedly committing a crime in California, you basically have two choices: accept a plea bargain, assuming the prosecutor offers you one, or go to trial and put your fate in the hands of a jury. If you choose the latter course, one of the first things your attorney and the prosecutor will do is start exchanging information with each other.

This information exchange goes by the name of the discovery process and is literally the way each side finds out more about the other side’s case and therefore what to expect at trial. In general, California law requires the prosecution to turn over the following to your attorney:

  • Any statement, oral or written, that you made to law enforcement officers
  • Your prior criminal record if you have one
  • The name(s) of any co-defendant(s) who will be tried with you
  • Copies of any documents that the prosecution will rely on at trial
  • Copies of any test results that the prosecution will rely on at trial
  • A list of the witnesses the prosecution intends to call against you at trial

In return, your attorney must give the prosecution the list of witnesses you intend to call at trial, plus copies of any documents, test results, etc. on which the defense will rely at trial.

Additional discovery

In addition to this initial exchange of information, FindLaw explains that your attorney can also submit the following documents to the prosecution if they think that doing so could help your defense:

  • Requests for Admissions
  • Interrogatories
  • Requests for Disclosure
  • Requests for Production of Documents

Your attorney can also depose any of the prosecution’s witnesses to obtain additional information from them. The prosecutor can likewise depose any of your witnesses, but they cannot depose you because you are the defendant and have the constitutional right to remain silent and to not incriminate yourself.

Discovery serves a very important function in criminal prosecution. Your attorney needs as much information as possible so they can best defend you.

This is general educational information and not intended to provide legal advice.