Whether you hear it on television or your attorney says the term, the word discovery gets used frequently in criminal cases. When preparing for trial, attorneys from both sides engage in the process of discovery.
Discovery is the exchanging of legal information between counsel about the witnesses and evidence that may come out at a trial. In a federal criminal case, you can request the government to disclose certain information.
1. Defendant’s oral, written or recorded statement
This includes any oral statement made before or after the arrest during interrogation. The government must provide for inspection, copying or photographing any written or recorded statement if it is in the government’s possession or the prosecuting attorney knows of the statement.
2. Documents and objects
You may request the government to produce items that are material in preparing the case. These items may include:
- Tangible objects
- Copies or portions of the above things
The government must provide these materials if the items are in the government’s possession and the government intends to use them at trial.
3. Expert witnesses
Your attorney can ask for written statements of testimony the government may use at trial. The report must describe the witness’s opinions, the reasons for those opinions and the witness’s qualifications.
You can also request such items as your prior criminal record and reports of examinations and tests the government required of you. Once you request this information, the government can make its own inquiries. Your attorney must produce the material in its possession, custody or control. The government cannot inspect statements made by you to your attorney.