Understanding Discovery in Criminal Cases
Every criminal defense lawyer dreams of having a Perry Mason moment, where something comes out at trial that completely surprises the judge, prosecutors, and even the bailiff. In reality, though, these moments are exceedingly rare because of the discovery process. If you are facing criminal charges for driving under the influence, possessing drugs, or anything else, you should understand what discovery means to your case.
Criminal convictions do not happen overnight. On the contrary, police officers, judges, prosecutors, and defendants must follow a strict procedure that begins with an investigation and ends with a dismissal, plea agreement, conviction, or acquittal. An important component in this procedure is discovery. In fact, how you mount your defense may depend on what you find during the discovery process.
Discovering critical information
As its name suggests, discovery allows both parties to a criminal case to see exactly what the other side has. During discovery, the prosecution and defense share their strategies. That is, they tell each other what information they plan to use in the trial. This may include investigative reports, witness testimony, and physical evidence.
Interviewing potential witnesses
Whether they have a first-hand account of the defendant’s conduct or an expert opinion on how a scenario unfolded, witnesses often play a vital role in criminal trials. No good prosecutor or defense lawyer puts someone on the stand without knowing what he or she may say. As such, the discovery process in Arizona allows attorneys to interview individuals who are on the witness list.
Appealing a possible conviction
If a criminal trial ends in a conviction, defendants often look for ways to appeal. While not every conviction is appealable, those that stem from errors with the discovery process typically are. Therefore, when planning a post-conviction strategy, it is always important to determine whether anything went wrong during discovery.
Unless you are a criminal defense lawyer, you may find the Arizona trial process to be somewhat confusing. Nonetheless, you must take advantage of discovery to determine how to defend yourself effectively. By understanding the process, you can better plan for asserting your legal rights.