If you are facing criminal charges in California and you have never been through the process before it is likely to be an intimidating and frightening experience. Conviction on even a relatively minor misdemeanor offense can haunt you for life. If you are facing major felony charges, your freedom is literally at stake. Only an experienced California criminal defense attorney can review the details of your case and provide you with specific advice, however, having a basic understanding of the criminal process can help ease your fears. For example, you may have heard the term “discovery” used in court, yet you may have no idea what this refers to or how it pertains to your case.
The term “discovery” refers to the stage of a criminal prosecution where the State of California is required to provide your defense attorney with the evidence the State has against you. As a general rule, the court will set a discovery deadline early on in the case. Prior to that date, the prosecution is required to turn over all discovery pertaining to your case to your attorney. Your attorney will then review the discovery tendered and go over it with you.
In a criminal prosecution, discovery could include a number of items such as:
- Witness statements or depositions – This may include both police and civilians. A deposition is a more formal method of finding out what a witness will testify to at trial. A deposition is taken with both the prosecuting and defense attorney present, under oath, with a court reporter there to transcribe. The witness is then asked questions as if at trial to find out what the answers will be.
- Lab reports – This may include fingerprint analysis, firearm ballistics, DNA analysis, hair and fiber analysis or any other report regarding evidence that was analyzed in a lab.
- Audio or video – If you were placed under surveillance, your phone was tapped, or the police monitored a drug “buy”, you have a right to see and/or hear what was recorded.
- Crime scene photos -Any photos taken before or after the crime that will be used at trial are turned over to you.
- Police reports – This may include an initial complaint that spurred the investigation and/or subsequent reports created by law enforcement officers.
Because of the wide variety of criminal offenses that you could be charged with there is no “standard” discovery. The material discovered to you will be specific to the offense with which you have been charged. Although there are some exceptions to this general rule, the important thing to know is that in most cases you are entitled to notification well ahead of time of all the evidence that will be used against you at trial.
If you have specific questions about the discovery process in your case, contact an experienced California criminal defense attorney right away. For immediate legal help, call San Diego criminal defense attorney Domenic J. Lombardo at (619) 232-5122 to schedule a free and confidential consultation.