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Can criminal defendants review the state’s evidence?

On Behalf of | Oct 6, 2023 | Criminal Defense

Many people feel surprised to learn that they are the subject of a law enforcement investigation. Adults arrested at their home or place of employment may initially not even understand the justification for the arrest. During police questioning or an arraignment, a person accused of a crime will learn what the state believes they did to violate the law. However, they may still feel confused about why the state believes that they broke the law. All they know is that the prosecutor seemingly has reason to believe they can secure a conviction during a trial based on the evidence they have.

Some people feel hopeless when accused of criminal activity because they face multiple charges or a felony charge that carries the risk of severe penalties. They know that the state must have evidence to justify the charges that they face. Yet, the state’s evidence may not be nearly as strong as first assumed.

Criminal defendants have the right of discovery

It would be all but impossible for someone accused of a criminal offense to effectively fight those charges without an understanding of what evidence the state has. Therefore, one of the basic rights of those preparing for a criminal trial is the right of discovery.

Prosecutors must provide information about the state’s evidence to the defendant or their lawyer upon request. Most evidence that a prosecutor will present in court is subject to the right of discovery. Forensic reports, lists of witnesses and other key evidence will be available upon request for someone putting together a criminal defense strategy. Personal research into the law or precedent, however, will not be available for review.

Defendants never know the exact strategy a prosecutor will utilize, but they can review the exact evidence they intend to present in court. Having information about the state’s evidence that the prosecutor intends to present will allow someone to prepare to counter that evidence. From preparing to cross-examine certain witnesses to bringing in expert witnesses to re-evaluate evidence, there are many ways to use the right of discovery to better prepare for a criminal trial.

Making use of one’s basic rights when facing criminal prosecution can potentially lead to a more favorable outcome during trial. Seeking legal guidance is a good way to begin.