Discovery is the process of requesting and “discovering” evidence before trial begins. Its purpose is to ensure fairness and give the defendant the chance to review all of the evidence that could be used against them.
Discovery is one of the bedrocks of the American justice system. When you are arrested for DUI or any crime, the “discovery” process gives you the right to request and review all of the evidence the prosecution might use against you—as well as any evidence that may help your own case. DUI lawyers who make good use of the discovery process are often able to find lynchpin evidence that turns your entire case around, or prepare strong defenses against the toughest charges.
Why is discovery so important?
In the past, prosecutors could hold onto certain types of evidence and keep it secret until the day of the trial. Then they would surprise the defendant with it in court, catching them off guard. Today, this sort of “gotcha” move is considered unfair—defendants may be unable to respond to the evidence not because they’re guilty, but because they’re simply surprised. California (and all US states) now use discovery rules that require the prosecution to turn over all evidence before trial.
This can include:
- Evidence the prosecutor plans to use (or could use) against you in trial
- Evidence that makes you look less guilty or could help your defense
- Evidence that suggests someone else is at fault besides you
These rules level the playing field. Without them, prosecutors have a huge advantage—they can simply ask police for any evidence they’ve found that makes you look guilty. Because of the discovery rules, however, any evidence the prosecution gets, you can get too.
How does discovery work?
Discovery is an ongoing process of requesting information and reviewing it as you receive it. It should be handled by a lawyer, both to make sure you request the right kinds of information and because a professional knows what to look in the mountains of documents they may receive.
In many cases, your lawyer can simply request in writing the kind of evidence or documents they want turned over. Usually the prosecutor will comply. If not, however, you may have to file a discovery motion to ask the judge to force them to give you the evidence.
What kind of evidence can I request?
Almost anything, and your request can be very broad. It may include:
- Names, contact information and copies of statements from witnesses
- Secondhand reports of what witnesses said
- Hard evidence like DUI breath test results, blood sample analysis, or videos of the arrest
- Records of the statements you gave police
- Records of any felony convictions of the witnesses being used against you
- Evidence that may either be favorable to you or implicate someone else
All DUI cases rely on discovery to build a defense and attack the charges against you. And in some cases the information discovered can completely overturn the case.
Have you been charged with DUI? We can connect you with an experienced Los Angeles DUI lawyer and get you a FREE consultation. Fill out the form to the right or call (310) 862-0199 and get your free consultation today.