People charged with criminal offenses for the first time can find themselves completely lost as to what to expect. As criminal lawyers, we often hear from new clients when they receive their initial court date in the mail who expect that date to be a full-on jury trial. The reality is that criminal cases can and do often stay pending for several months and sometimes years depending on the complexity and seriousness of the case. This article is meant to familiarize clients with one of the most important processes in their case, the discovery process.
Discovery is the legal process that parties to lawsuits or criminal actions engage in to exchange information about the cases before trial. In civil cases, both parties are required to turn over discovery materials to the opposite party in preparation for a resolution of the case. In criminal cases, discovery rules are quite different. Luckily, Florida has one of the most robust and liberal discovery rules for criminal defendants. The discovery rules however, are sometimes ignored by the prosecution to the detriment of the defense. Due to this possibility, it is important for you to retain a skilled Sarasota criminal defense lawyer so that you can take advantage of the discovery rules for your benefit.Florida Discovery Rules
Florida’s criminal discovery rules are set out in Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure 3.220. Under the discovery rules, the State who bears the burden of proving the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, also bears the burden of most of the discovery. Unlike most civil cases, a criminal case is a more one sided affair. Under the rules, once charges have formally been filed, the State has a period of fifteen days to turn over their initial discovery submission. This submission is required to disclose several pieces of discovery.
First, the state is required to turn over the names and addresses of any person known to the State to have information relevant to any offense charged, along with any person who might be able to help the defendant present his or her defense. This is an often-overlooked section of the discovery rules and prosecutors will sometimes neglect or even willfully decide to withhold the names of witnesses who are not helpful to their case. It is important that you consult with an experienced Sarasota criminal defense lawyer who can independently investigate your case and determine if there are any missing witnesses in your case.
The prosecution is also required to turn over any statement made by a person connected to the case. This section means that the prosecution must turn over any and all police reports or expert reports that are created in contemplation of a prosecution. They must also turn over any written or recorded statement made by any non-law enforcement witness. The state is also required to disclose the statements of the defendant himself if there are any. The rules of evidence permit the state to use a defendant’s statements against him, so they must also be required to disclose those statements so that the defense is not surprised at trial.
On the other hand, the defense’s discovery obligation is significantly less. Under the rules, a defendant must list witnesses that he or she intends to call at trial. However, the defense is not required to list such witnesses until he or she has actually decided to call such a witness at trial. The defense is also required to turn over any evidence of an alibi to the prosecution prior to trial.Speak To Our Lawyers Today
The attorneys at Hanlon Law have years of experience dealing with discovery disputes with prosecutors and litigating these issues with the court. Don’t let the prosecution take advantage of you. Instead, retain a skilled lawyer that will work to hold them to their obligation. For a consultation, call us today at 727-897-5413.