Types of Discovery in a Florida Criminal Case
Before a trial in a criminal case moves forward, the prosecutor and defense will usually engage in discovery practices to assess the factual issues at stake. Depending on the nature of the crime and complexities involved with evidence, the process can take weeks – or even months – because there are many different types of discovery to address. The Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure describe them in more detail, but the point is for both sides to exchange information in advance about the evidence that may be presented at trial. Despite portrayals in film and TV, the “smoking gun” proof or surprise testifying witness is NOT a common occurrence.
A skilled Florida criminal defense attorney will always handle the specifics of discovery while advocating on your behalf in a criminal case. However, you might want to learn more about the types of discovery you may encounter.
Prosecutor’s Discovery Exhibit: In the early stages of the criminal process, your lawyer may elect to engage in the discovery process by delivering a Notice of Discovery to the prosecution. This act triggers a requirement for the prosecutor to send a Discovery Exhibit within 15 days afterwards. This document must disclose evidence that may be used at your trial, and you’ll be allowed to review, copy, test, and/or capture images of any information within the prosecution’s possession.
The Discovery Exhibit is crucial in a criminal case because it essentially “show the hand” of the prosecutor’s case-in-chief against you. Your attorney will carefully review it in connection with developing a strong defense strategy.
Discovery Duties of the Prosecution and Defense: After serving the Notice of Discovery and receiving the Discovery Exhibit, the defense is ALSO obligated to engage in the process. Some of the possible tools both sides will use include:
Requests for Documents: You may have received a lot of this information through the prosecutor’s exhibit, but your defense lawyer will also be required to provide relevant documents upon request. Your attorney will be required to forward all non-privileged items, since “documents” covers more than just paperwork.
Written Interrogatories: This form of discovery involves questions which must be answered, in writing, under oath. Interrogatories allow each side to review and understand the opponent’s version of the facts that allegedly prove the elements of a crime.
Depositions: You won’t be deposed because your testimony could run afoul of your rights against self-incrimination, but both attorneys may want to depose potential witnesses. The point of a deposition is to determine the basis of a witness’ testimony if he or she may be called at trial.
Trust a Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer for Assistance with Discovery
As you can see from this overview, discovery practices can be complicated. Though it’s important for you to know the general background, you should trust your legal counsel to take care of the details. For more information on the role of discovery in a Florida criminal case, please contact Fort Lauderdale criminal attorney Kevin J. Kulik. Once we review your circumstances, we can explain more about how discovery rules apply to your case.