What is Discovery in a Los Angeles Criminal Case?

Discovery is a very important part of a criminal case. It is a crucial element for Los Angeles Criminal Defense lawyers, as it is the majority of the evidence that the case will rest on. Discovery itself is the process in which the defense will obtain evidence processed by the Prosecutor regarding the case. Prosecutors may also obtain evidence and information from the defense side to help build their case.

Discovery will include pictures taken at an arrest site, surveillance, arrest reports, statements and officer’s observations. It is essentially any evidence gathered by either side that they will be using to prove their case. One of the most common forms of discovery is an arrest report. It is the foundation upon which Prosecutors build their case.

The arrest report may be obtained at the first court hearing, also known as the arraignment. Generally when the person being charged has hired an attorney to represent them, the attorney can go into court and ask the Prosecutor for a copy of the discovery. The prosecutor will ask the attorney for a business card so that they can keep track of who the discovery was given to, and provide the lawyer with a copy.

For DMV hearings in DUI cases, the discovery could also include surveillance tapes. Oftentimes squad cars are equipped with video cameras and will tape an arrest from when the person is pulled over, until they have been taken into custody. It is, therefore, important for a Los Angeles DUI attorney to request the surveillance tapes from the DMV. These tapes are crucial to review prior to a hearing. To request discovery for a surveillance tape is a little more complicated. The attorney’s office must send a written request and authorization in order to obtain discovery.

The discovery process is an important one. An experienced defense attorney will always obtain discovery from the district attorney or the city attorney before arguing a case or entering a plea. The discovery will give insight into the strength of the prosecutor’s case.

For example, a client might inform their attorney that the officers had no probable cause to pull him over for suspicion of a DUI. Upon reviewing an officer’s report, the attorney might find that, in fact, the officers have not written a reason for having pulled the driver over. Instantly the attorney will know that the prosecutors’ have a weak case because there was no initial reason to stop the driver. If there is no probable cause for a stop, a significant element of a DUI case is not met, and the case is a strong one for defense.

An attorney is able to obtain all discovery faster than a person who is not represented. The advantage of having the report sooner rather than later is to be able to prepare a defense and a powerful argument before the attorney has to enter a plea or appear before the Judge.