Questions About Discovery in a Florida Criminal Case
One pre-trial task that takes place behind the scenes of a criminal case is discovery, a process that’s covered by the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure. In general, discovery is the exchange of information by a prosecutor and defense attorney, which takes place during the pre-trial phase and in preparation for trial. However, there’s much more to the process than you might expect. Your Florida criminal defense attorney can offer the specifics, but some answers to common questions may be helpful.
What is discovery in a criminal case?
Your lawyer will need as much detail as possible to present a strong defense to the criminal charges. Much of this information is in the hands of the prosecutor and law enforcement. Discovery is the official process for requesting facts regarding your case, through such methods as requests for documents, interrogatories, and depositions. Examples of information you can access through discovery include:
- Police reports regarding your arrest;
- Any documentary evidence officers obtained during their investigation;
- Statements provided by witnesses and the victim, if any;
- Transcripts of wire taps;
- Lists of witnesses set to testify;
- Electronic information from a computer; and,
- Many other types of information.
Does a prosecutor have to turn over evidence?
In most cases, yes. While it may make for good TV, it’s rare that a prosecutor can spring new or unknown evidence in court. Your criminal defense attorney is entitled to see any and all information the prosecutor intends to present at trial. The point is to ensure a fair process, so your lawyer can do the best possible job to defend your interests.
There are two exceptions regarding discovery that is not required to be disclosed:
- Work product, which is the information either party develops through research, opinions of experts, or their own efforts; and,
- The identity of confidential informants, unless the individual will testify in court.
Why is discovery helpful during pre-trial phases?
The exchange of information allows both sides to share essential facts of the case, so it may also reveal where there are strengths and weaknesses. When a prosecution realizes it can’t prove the necessary elements of the crime, it opens the door to a plea bargain – or for your defense attorney to file a motion to dismiss the charges.
Is there a schedule for discovery in a criminal case?
There are a few deadlines regarding discovery in the Rules of Criminal procedure, but they’re somewhat flexible in practice. Your defense attorney will file a Notice of Discovery, and the prosecutor has 15 days to turn over all relevant evidence that’s not protected. Within 15 days after receipt of the prosecutor’s Discovery Exhibit, the defense must reciprocate by providing any information that will be presented on your behalf.
Trust Your Florida Criminal Defense Attorney to Handle Discovery
Discovery is a complicated process, but it’s also critical for defending against the allegations in a criminal case. Unless you fully understand how it works, you could move forward to trial without key evidence that benefits your case. For more information on how a Florida criminal defense attorney can assist throughout all stages of a criminal case, please contact attorney Kevin J. Kulik. We can set up a confidential consultation to review your situation at our Fort Lauderdale office.