When a person is accused of a crime in the United States, they are innocent until proven guilty. This is one of the most important aspects of the American legal system and helps to ensure that a person can receive a fair trial.
One of the ways that someone can be proven innocent or guilty is by the information discovered in connection to the alleged crime. Referred to as discovery, this process works by both sides gathering physical, DNA, scientific, forensic, and other types of evidence. It also involves interviewing witnesses so both sides can secure testimonials that can either prove or disprove a person’s innocence.
What Happens During the Discovery Process of a Criminal Trial?
In Florida, prosecution and defense teams can employ a few methods when they need to gather information. They can speak with witnesses, request physical evidence, send a written questionnaire to someone involved in the case, or request the opposing side to prove certain evidence is genuine.
Some types of information that can be revealed during a Florida criminal trial discovery include:
- Personal background of a witness
- Anything heard, seen, or done by a witness connected to the case
- Documents related to the case
- Identity of anyone involved with the incident
- Information about a business and how it affects the case
The Prosecution Must Share Evidence During the Discovery Process
Importantly, the prosecution team involved with a criminal trial must share their evidence with the other side. Doing this accomplishes multiple things. First, it helps ensure that a person is prepared from being “ambushed" during their trial with a solid defense for any evidence the prosecution might have. Additionally, it helps encourage a fair trial as it makes the extensive resources that prosecution teams have available to a defense team and their client.
Importantly, sharing evidence doesn’t mean sharing a strategy with the other side. A case’s prosecution is not required to share their strategy, notes, and how they plan to use the evidence they’ve gathered with the defense.
Testimony from Law Enforcement as Evidence
Prosecution teams often rely significantly on the testimony of police officers during the discovery process and as evidence during a trial. They do this because juries often trust the testimony of officers. This makes retrieving the statements that officers made about a case crucial.
However, a defense team should be prepared to counter the testimony of a law enforcement officer. They can do this by exploring an officer’s record and identifying any instances of misconduct or inaccuracies with their testimony. Doing this can help show a jury any inaccuracies with an officer’s point of view or even expose any misconduct on their part.
Limitations During the Criminal Discovery Process
While there are many ways to obtain information, there are limits to what is allowed in the discovery process. Privileged and legally protected information is inadmissible in court. Examples of undiscoverable information include confidential conversations (such as those between a husband and a wife or a lawyer and a client) or very personal information that is not related to the case at all, such as the health or body issues of a witness. In addition, the information that can be revealed about third parties, and the information that is revealed to the public may be limited by the court depending on their relevance to the case.
Call Our Tampa Criminal Defense Lawyers Now at (813) 321-7323
With so much information involved in a criminal case, it is important to know what can be affected by the discovery process. At Thomas & Paulk, P.A., we know how important preparing a client’s case for trial is. Our Tampa criminal defense lawyers are ready to put in the work your case deserves. We’ve helped thousands of people just like you defend their rights and protect their future while facing criminal charges. Call us today to find out how we can help you.