Criminal Discovery: Documents Defense Is Entitled to Request
Discovery is provides the defendant with an opportunity to obtain information possessed by the prosecutor regarding the defendant’s case. Similarly, prosecutors may also request all the information that the defendant holds. This inter-exchange of information is commonly known as the “discovery period.”Exculpatory Evidence
In order to facilitate fairness, discovery rules obligate prosecutors to provide the defendant with any evidence that may potentially benefit their defense strategy. This is known as exculpatory evidence, which may help establish a defendant’s innocence. Such evidence includes any documents that the prosecutor plans on introducing at trial, any documents that are material to the defense, and all documents that have been seized from the defendant. Moreover, if the prosecution fails to provide the defense with this exculpatory evidence, it can result in the overturning of any conviction upon appeal.
Generally, any information that may present doubt concerning the guilt of a defendant, according to a reasonable juror, is deemed exculpatory evidence in most cases and can be discovered. To force the prosecution to turn over exculpatory evidence, criminal defense attorneys usually make their requests from the onset of trial preparation. They will also interview other parties, such as police officers, other attorneys and witnesses to the case, to determine what exculpatory evidence may present in the given case.Problems in Requesting Documents
An issue that many criminal attorneys face in requesting exculpatory evidence is the voluminous amount of documents involved in the case. This will create a needle-in-the-haystack quandary of looking for the useful documents in the midst of numerous files.
In response, criminal attorneys will request the prosecution to take the following actions:
- Label the documents in their possession that they are planning to use at trial
- Demand access to scanned electronic files
- Request originals from which a summary was prepared
For more information about the discovery rules and how they can help your defense strategy, you need to contact a criminal defense attorney. For a consultation with attorney Param Pabla, please call the Law Offices of Param S. Pabla at (916) 285-7900.