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What is Discovery in a Criminal Case?

If you or someone you know has ever been in anyway involved in a criminal case, they have likely heard the phrase “discovery” over and over. This raises the obvious question of what it actually means. Ultimately, discovery in a criminal case includes the documents, testimony and other evidence with which the State Attorney’s Office plans to use against someone accused of a crime at trial. Generally, discovery will include any and all police reports created by arresting officers, transcripts of any statements, photographs and/or video of all evidence and other similar materials.

The American criminal justice system requires the prosecution to lay out its entire case against an accused. The analogy we generally draw upon involves poker. In poker, the players are allowed or even encourage to bluff as to the strength of their hand and their ability to win. In the American criminal court system, the prosecution is basically forbidden from bluffing because they are forced to lay out their case to us throughout the length of the prosecution.  Ultimately sticking with the poker analogy, your discovery in a criminal case is analogous to laying your cards down on the table.  If prosecutors are found to be bluffing or withholding evidence from a criminal defendant, there are serious implications both professionally and personally for the prosecutor. Through a line of cases that began with Brady v. Maryland, the Supreme Court of the United States required the prosecution to provide us with any documents that are material and exculpatory to a criminal defendant. This also includes potential impeachment materials, this is especially important in cases, where the State Attorney’s Office lacks scientific evidence and is solely relying on testimonial evidence. The Tampa criminal law attorneys of Hackworth Law have had great success in impeaching testifying witnesses in numerous criminal trials.

If you or someone you know has questions concerning criminal discovery or a criminal charge, contact the Tampa criminal defense attorneys of Hackworth Law for a free case consultation. We look forward to hearing from you and working with you.

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