A criminal trial can be an overwhelming process for a New Yorker to contemplate on their own. Aside from the stress of an arrest and one’s processing into the criminal justice system, an individual may be confused and worried about the many pretrial and courtroom requirements they must fulfill in order to have a chance to defend themselves. Those caught in this scary situation should know that they have rights, including the right to an attorney to help them through the process.
For example, an attorney can help their client with discovery, or the process of obtaining information about a case from opposing counsel. New York has an automatic discovery law on its books, and it can be a great help to a criminal defendant as they learn more about the case being brought against them. This post will briefly discuss what automatic discovery is and what must be disclosed by prosecutors.
The purpose of discovery
Criminal cases are won on the facts and evidence that can be proven at trial. The better a set of facts can be proven to match the elements of a criminal charge or a defense strategy, the better the chance that the arguing party will prevail. To obtain information and facts to be used in building a case or defense, a party may use discovery.
Discovery can take different forms. Some forms of discovery are:
- Depositions: Under-oath interview of witnesses and parties done out of court
- Interrogatories: Written questions to be answered by opposing parties
- Subpoenas: Requests of paper or electronic documents by opposing parties
The purpose of discovery is to ensure both sides to a case have the same information and to preserve fairness. Discovery should prevent one side from ensnaring the other with unknown information when at trial.
Discovery can be a long process. Court rules and laws determine how long parties can take to respond to discovery requests from opposing parties. For a criminal defendant awaiting trial, the discovery process can be an eternity. In New York, criminal defendants have the right to discover, and have some information disclosed to them by prosecutors, many types of evidence in the possession of prosecutors. The goal of automatic discovery is to cut down on the lag time for criminal defendants and ensure timely trials for those accused of breaking the law.
Despite the presence of automatic discovery in New York, many criminal defendants become lost in the process of building their criminal defense strategies. Those who wish to obtain help can seek the counsel of criminal defense lawyers who can provide them with case-specific guidance and representation.