What is Discovery?
Discovery is a legal term that refers to the process of exchanging information, legal documents, and evidence between the parties in a lawsuit. Discovery is a compulsory process, meaning that the parties in the lawsuit must comply with requests for information or face court-ordered sanctions.
The federal rules of criminal procedure require the government to make available any written or verbal statements it intends to you against you at trial, as well as any evidence it has gathered in preparation for its case or that you could use to prepare your defense.
About the Federal Discovery Process
Discovery happens at the pre-trial stage of a case. The federal discovery process in a criminal case includes:
- An interview conducted by court personnel
- Federal prosecutors gather evidence and prepare their case against you
- Prosecutors submit the case to a grand jury to determine whether or not your case should go to trial based on the evidence
In a sense, the federal discovery process also includes the period of time in which the police or federal agents conducted an investigation — could be weeks or months or longer — in which they gathered evidence sufficient to support an indictment and arrest.
After indictment and arrest, prosecutors and defense counsel should exchange or should already have exchanged (depending on when defense counsel was hired) all relevant information about the case.
In a perfect world, defense counsel would have all the evidence — including exculpatory evidence that suggests you are innocent — during the pre-trial discovery phase.
Expert Tip: It is in the interest of prosecutors to obtain convictions. Sometimes information will be withheld that should be provided to the defendant. This is one reason why it is very important to retain the services of a criminal defense lawyer as early as possible. The Supreme Court has made it very clear that withholding evidence violates due process "where the evidence is material either to guilt or punishment." Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963); see also Giglio v. United States, 405 U.S. 150 (1972). An experienced defense attorney will fight to protect your constitutional right to have full and timely discovery.
Contact Roberts Law Group, PLLC in North Carolina
Based in Raleigh, Patrick Roberts is a federal defense attorney who represents individuals charged with federal offenses throughout the U.S. Learn more about Patrick Roberts here. Call 800-760-9071 or use our online form to request a consultation.
North Carolina vs. M.W.
Charge: Charge: Robbery with A Dangerous Weapon (4 Counts), First Degree Burglary, Conspiracy to Commit Robbery with A Dangerous Weapon
Facing: 12 - 17 years in prison
An incarcerated defendant accused our client of participating in the robbery of a group of youth at a party. We were able to raise doubt as to the credibility of this individual. In the end, the prosecutor dismissed these charges, citing a lack of evidence.