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Criminal defendants benefit from the right of discovery

Individuals who have been recently arrested for alleged criminal offenses in Georgia are often very anxious about the future. Many people find the idea of going to trial so intimidating that they give up without a fight and plead guilty right away.

That approach rarely works out in an individual’s best interests. They may have a lifetime criminal record affecting everything from employment to housing opportunities. They will also be subject to whatever criminal penalties a judge chooses to impose based on the charges they face. Although it is natural to feel anxious about the future when accused of breaking the law, there are many rights that protect criminal defendants in Georgia. One of the most important is the right of discovery, which applies to the state’s evidence.

What is the right of discovery?

Federal rules for criminal proceedings and Georgia state standards require the disclosure of all evidence to criminal defendants and their attorneys prior to trial. A defense attorney can request access to any evidence that the state would present in court.

They can receive a list of witnesses, reports on the analysis of physical or chemical evidence and copies of security camera footage. Prosecutors even have to provide evidence they have that would exonerate someone, known as exculpatory evidence. Even though they likely would not present that evidence at trial, they would need to disclose it to the defense team before the trial begins. However, prosecutors do not have to provide information about their strategy in court, such as what questions they will ask witnesses or how they will connect the evidence to the criminal incident. It falls to the defense team to plan an appropriate response to the evidence.

How discovery helps

The right of discovery can make a major difference in a criminal case. In some scenarios, attorneys may be able to exclude some evidence from the trial because police officers broke the law during the investigation. Other times, they may be able to reinterpret the evidence or arrange for expert witnesses to do that for them.

The more that a defense team knows about how the state will develop its case, the easier it may be to raise questions about whether someone broke the law. Learning about the right of discovery and other rules that protect defendants may benefit those preparing to fight back against pending criminal charges in Georgia.