By: Andrew Martinez
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Discovery and Exculpatory Evidence in Criminal Cases
Our criminal justice system goes to great lengths to ensure proceedings are as fair as possible to victims and the accused. Discovery and exculpatory evidence are a crucial part of our criminal justice system that often makes the difference between someone going to prison or walking free. The intricacies of discovery and exculpatory evidence are one of the reasons it is so important to have a criminal defense attorney – not just any attorney – handling your defense when accused of a crime.
What Is Discovery?
The discovery process consists of the defense and prosecution receiving copies of the evidence gathered. This is accomplished by interviewing witnesses, viewing physical evidence, and the review of police reports and other pertinent documents.
Discovery can result in negotiations that head off a case before a client’s trial. Understanding the evidence the prosecution has gathered against a criminal defendant is critical for building a defense and deciding whether to enter plea negotiations or pursue an acquittal at trial.
What Is Exculpatory Evidence?
Exculpatory evidence is any evidence with the potential to prove the defendant’s innocence. A typical example of exculpatory evidence is a defendant’s alibi and testimony that supports it. For example, evidence that the defendant was at a restaurant two hours from the crime scene at the time of the crime would be exculpatory evidence. The prosecution’s failure to disclose exculpatory evidence is grounds for appeal.
The Bottom Line
There is an art to making the most of the discovery process and the available exculpatory evidence. You need an attorney on your side who can maximize the value of these steps in your case.