What is "Discovery" in a Criminal Case?
Discovery/Police Reports - The police reports and other evidence provided to defense counsel in a criminal case is commonly referred to as discovery. Discovery is either provided at the arraignment hearing, or can be obtained from the prosecuting agency via written request. In all cases, the prosecuting agency, whether it be the state or local prosecuting authority, has an absolute mandatory obligation to provide the defendant and his/her defense counsel with the evidence the government intends to use at the time of the trial of the case. The prosecution also has a duty to provide all evidence (referred to as exculpatory evidence) that is helpful to the defense in the case. The prosecution must disclose all evidence to the defense. They cannot use the evidence at the time of trial to surprise the defense. The same rules apply to the defense as well. It must be noted, though, that defense counsel is not required or obligated to provide potentially damaging evidence to the prosecution. The burden to produce evidence lies with the prosecution alone. Discovery materials and documents in a typical criminal case include reports made by police officers; victim statements, if any; photos of the victim and/or the crime scene, as well as photos of other types of evidence (guns, drugs, etc); statements the defendant may have made; statements that witnesses to the alleged criminal conduct may have made; photos and/or sketches or diagrams of the crime scene; 911 emergency call audio and call logs; and any video recordings that may have been made.