How Important is Discovery in a DWI or Criminal Case?
Discovery is absolutely critical in any criminal case or DWI case. Without the discovery, the attorney and the client don’t know the evidence that the state could potentially present against the defendant in trial. It’s impossible to negotiate and it’s impossible to be a good advocate for a client if you don’t have the same information that the prosecutor has.
What Type of Evidence is Available in the Discovery in a Criminal Case?
The standard discovery that we would see in every file would be a report from the law enforcement officer. Occasionally, there is video evidence if it was caught on a squad camera or perhaps a body camera; that type of evidence is becoming a lot more common. Witness statements if they were audio-recorded, which is becoming a lot more frequent, would also be available in discovery.
Are Discovery Rules The Same in Misdemeanor And Felony Cases?
Discovery rules are fairly similar in felony cases. You are entitled to have everything a lot quicker; in misdemeanor cases, it’s more of a timing issue and you’re not going to have it necessarily before a first appearance.
Does The Defendant Have to Enter a Plea of Guilty or Not Guilty Prior to Discovery?
No, the defendant does not have to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty prior to discovery. Discovery can be requested as soon as a defendant is charged. Technically in Minnesota, the rules don’t require the state to turn over the discovery until after the defendant makes a first appearance, but most prosecutors will turn over the discovery as soon as they have it available.
Are Discovery Rules Really Intended to Help Defendants at Trial?
Yes, discovery rules really are intended to help defendants at trial. Without having requested discovery, if the defendant is in trial and they don’t have police reports, they are not going to have effective cross-examination against any witness, they are not going to know what the State’s likely theory of their case is, and they are not going to have a fully prepared and well-rounded defense to present to a jury. The discovery rules are also put in place timelines that give the state and the defense if there is discovery on the defense side, deadlines to turnover a discovery so that there aren’t any surprises during the trial. If, for example, the state were to fail to turnover a witness statement, it’s possible that that witness could be prevented from testifying, which may help the defense in the long run in getting a not guilty verdict. The discovery rules are in place to protect the parties at trial.
What Happens When The Defense Discovers an Error or a Misrepresentation in Discovery?
After reviewing the discovery, I speak with my clients and make sure that they have also reviewed the discovery because it’s important to know from their perspective what’s correct and what’s not correct or what’s inaccurate from their point of view. Once we’ve spoken, we talk about strategy and where we’d like to see the case end up. If there is something glaringly wrong or misstated about the discovery, then it’s possible that we decide to hire a defense investigator to go and get the correct information or to go and get information that disproves what’s written in those police reports.
The other option we have is we talk about strategy as far as motions we might file and whether we are going to request contested hearings to either limit the evidence or to try to suppress or keep out evidence from the state’s case.
For more information on Discovery in a DWI or Criminal Case, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (800) 684-9740 today.
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