What is discovery in a criminal case and why is it important?

Evidentiary Analysis

Your lawyer should request and review the Discovery materials in your case.  The Discovery materials are the police reports, lab reports, witness statements, photographs, videos and other evidence that the prosecutor will try to use to prove your guilt.  As your lawyer is reviewing discovery, he or she will be looking problems with the prosecutor’s evidence.  He or she will consider constitutional issues relating to the stop, the search and interrogations.  He or she will consider the Rules Evidence and how they apply to your case.  He or she will contemplate and research some of the thousands of cases that interpret these and other legal principles.  I have been in a criminal courtroom almost every weekday since 1997 and I perform some type of research in almost every case.

He will consider whether any of the harmful evidence can be suppressed because it was illegally obtained.  He may be able to suppress evidence that is not lawfully presented.  He will also consider whether any defenses may apply in your case.  He will then be able to give you an opinion on whether or not you are likely to be convicted in court.  The probabability of your conviction will help you decide whether you want to plead or try your case.

More importantly, the issues identified through this process will be the basis for plea negotiation.  Great lawyers go through this process very carefully.  Many lawyers do not go through it at all or give it a casual glance.  This process is the difference between a good result and a bad result.  Often when you see a different result in similar cases, the difference results from effective evidentiary analysis.