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Discovery in Criminal Cases

Before the date of a criminal trial rolls around, both parties involved will undergo a process called discovery. Discovery is a period of time where both parties are given the opportunity to learn the facts of a case. Discovery can be a lengthy process, but it is necessary so that both parties can avoid unwelcome surprises during a trial.

What Is Discovery?

Discovery is a period where both parties – the prosecutor’s attorney and the defendant’s attorney – get to exchange information about the criminal case. It makes the criminal justice system more just and efficient by giving both sides of the case the same basic information. For the most part, information that is not disclosed during the discovery phase will not be admissible as evidence in a criminal trial.

Discovery can help both sides of a criminal case: the prosecutor and the defendant. The discovery phase gives a defendant the chance to learn more about the strengths of the prosecutor’s case. This may encourage the defendant to take a plea bargain. A plea bargain can help the defendant avoid a worse outcome by a jury and help the prosecutor by securing a conviction. In this way, discovery is equally important to both parties.

Phases of Discovery in a Criminal Case

Discovery has many phases. It uses several tools to make sure each side gives full and complete information about a case. Although the many steps involved in the discovery phase can make it a long and drawn-out process, it is critical to do things correctly for a fair and successful criminal trial.

If you are facing criminal charges in Arizona, you will have no choice but to comply with any subpoenas or court orders sent to you by the prosecutor during the discovery phase. These orders may require you to appear for meetings with the attorney for the other side of the case or submit written information. Your Queen Creek criminal defense lawyer can guide you through the different phases of discovery.

Depositions

A deposition is an in-person interview to obtain oral statements made under oath for the official record. If you attend a deposition as a defendant in a criminal lawsuit, you will get sworn in and provide testimony in the form of answers to questions asked by the prosecutor’s attorney. Although a deposition can seem daunting, your attorney can accompany you to the meeting and give you advice on what to say and what not to say.

The questions asked during a criminal deposition often focus on your criminal history, your relationship to the alleged victim and what happened the day of the offense. It is critical to tell the truth during a deposition, as you are sworn to do so under penalty of perjury. Keep your answers short, however, and do not offer any more information than is requested. Do not let the prosecutor’s attorney pressure you and feel free to ask for as many breaks as you need.

Interrogatories

Interrogatories are similar to depositions, as they also involve questions that must be answered honestly. However, interrogatories are written questions rather than oral questions. The party that receives the interrogatories must respond in writing and sign a statement swearing the information is the truth, to the extent of the party’s knowledge.

Requests for Evidence

Another important part of the discovery phase is requests for evidence and document production. Both sides of a criminal case have the right to request that the other side produce certain documents or evidence that are relevant to the case for review.

Document production requests are different in criminal cases compared to civil cases. During a criminal case, the prosecutor has a responsibility to provide certain documents to the defendant, even if the defense attorney did not request the information. For example, a prosecutor must provide the defense with a copy of any relevant police reports. In a civil case, on the other hand, both parties only have to submit the specific documents requested.

Learn more about discovery in a criminal case in Arizona by consulting with a defense attorney in Phoenix today.