Peter Blair | August 24, 2015 | Featured Front Page
Before a trial begins, there is a period of time that both sides – the prosecution and the defense – share information. This concept is known as “ discovery. ” This exchange of information is done so the trial proceeds smoothly and information is not being requested throughout the trial. It also promotes a fair trial. “ Discovery ” typically takes place during the pre-trial phase. The prosecuting attorney and the criminal defense attorney use the time to ask for certain pieces of information pertaining to the case. The two parties are supposed to answer each others’ inquiries during “ discovery. ”
The Purposes of “ Discovery ”
“ Discovery ” allows the defense to learn about the prosecution’s case. During this time, the defense often is able to obtain the copies of the police reports concerning the case, as well as copies of the prosecution’s witness statements. Additionally, “ discovery ” allows the defense the opportunity to examine evidence that the prosecution plans to introduce at trial. In exchange, the prosecution’s side of the trial, is able to learn about the defense’s side. The prosecutor may examine the defense’s evidence, as well. It is common for this exchange of information during the pre-trial to yield a settlement between the prosecution and defense, which can save the court time and the use of its resources. If a defendant knows he is guilty, for example, and the criminal defense lawyer discovers the prosecution has a strong case, then that defendant may be advised to plead “guilty” to save everyone the hassle of a trial. Due to “ discovery, ” 90 percent of criminal cases settle before trial. If the criminal defense lawyer believes he or she has a strong case, then he or she may advise the defendant that it is best to go forward with a trial. “ Discovery ” can be seen as beneficial to the defense, as it can allow them time to make their case even stronger then.
What can be discussed during “Discovery”
Once a lawsuit gets underway, parties to the lawsuit or their lawyers start gathering information related to the lawsuit. “ Discovery ” allows both sides to learn information for the first time. The exchange of information often is done through writing, as well as in person. Commonly, the information exchanged includes facts concerning the case, the identity of others who may know something about the case and their background information, documents relating to the case, and physical objects or property connected to the case for inspection. There are a few legal limits related to “ discovery, ” however, so the process is not abused by either side of the case. During ” discovery, ” an attorney does not have to disclose information related to confidential conversations, which may take place between a husband and wife or a doctor and patient, for example. Also, private matters do not need to be disclosed during “ discovery. ” This often includes personal family information not necessary to make public, such as religion beliefs or health issues. Third parties also have a right to privacy and their personal matters do not need to be discussed during “ discovery. ”