What is the discovery process during a criminal trial?

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Those accused of violating Connecticut state statutes usually face criminal prosecution. Thankfully, federal and state laws grant certain key protections to those facing prosecution. There is a right to a presumption of innocence until their conviction, for example, although many defendants facing charges may feel like they must fight an uphill battle to exonerate themselves.

One of the most important rights for someone intending to defend themselves is the right of discovery. Discovery is the legal process through which the different parties involved in a legal matter obtain access to records and evidence that the other party intends to submit to the courts. What does the discovery process mean for someone hoping to fight against criminal charges in Connecticut?

Their lawyer can access state evidence

The right of discovery allows a defense attorney to request the evidence that the state intends to present in court. Understanding how a prosecutor will likely develop their case can have a major impact on how successful a defense attorney can develop a response to someone’s pending charges. It is so important that the inclusion of new evidence could warrant rescheduling a hearing to give the defense a chance to review it.

Many defense strategies focus on challenging, reinterpreting or even eliminating certain evidence. The discovery process allows a criminal defense attorney to request certain forms of evidence from the prosecutor including police records, forensic information, tangible documents and even exculpatory information. Exculpatory information involves records obtained by the prosecution or investigators that are favorable to the defendant and could help them exonerate themselves. The state will need to give a defense lawyer the names of witnesses who may testify, as well as information about those parties’ criminal records.

Of course, the discovery process is a two-way street. The prosecutor has the right to request information about the evidence that the defense intends to use, including the names of witnesses and professional expert witnesses they intend to bring to court. The discovery process can take many months, particularly in complex cases involving extensive records, such as white-collar criminal offenses.

Learning more about what happens during criminal prosecution may help people more effectively cooperate with their attorney to develop a solid defense strategy.