When a defendant appears for his or her arraignment hearing on a felony or misdemeanor offense, the defendant’s attorney will be provided a copy of the criminal complaint and the initial discovery packet. This initial discovery will typically only include the police reports associated with the case and the defendant’s rap sheet. However, there is often a great deal of additional discovery material available that must be requested by the defense. It is through the discovery process that critical evidence is revealed that can be extremely valuable to the defense.
After a defendant’s arraignment, his or her attorney will have a chance to go through the initial discovery packet to determine what additional items may be missing. Typically, an informal discovery request will then be sent to prosecutor requesting specific items. This can include surveillance video footage, 911 calls, audio recordings of interviews, supplemental police reports, witness rap sheets, business/medical records and anything else that may be relevant to the case that is in the possession of the prosecutor or law enforcement agency.
Under the landmark Brady v. Maryland decision, the United States Supreme Court held that the prosecution is required to turn over all relevant discovery material to the defense. Even if the prosecutor does not intend to use a particular piece of evidence, it must be turned over to the defense if it is relevant. In particular, the prosecutor has a duty to turn over any exonerating evidence that may exist.
In many white collar cases, the discovery material may be extensive and may require the assistance of experts to thoroughly review and evaluate all of the material. Because of this, the discovery process may extend for months or even years as the prosecution turns over relevant material and the defense is given enough time to properly review what has been turned over.
If the prosecution fails to turn over an item that has been requested, the defense may file a formal discovery motion with the Court. The judge handling the case would hear arguments from both sides regarding the missing discovery and determine whether or not the defense is entitled to what is being requested. The judge may order that the prosecutor turn over the discovery at issue. If the prosecutor fails to turn over what is requested, the judge may impose sanctions on the prosecution and may limit what can be introduced at the defendant’s trial.
Certain items of evidence cannot be obtained through the discovery process and instead must be procured through the criminal subpoena process. For example, in certain cases it may be necessary to review a victim’s medical records. The prosecution may not have access to these records and it would be up to the defense to subpoena this material directly from the hospital or healthcare provider. For defendants who are charged with crimes such as hit and run or battery, it is often necessary to subpoena medical or other records relating to the victim’s treatment and injuries.
For defendants who are charged with felony offenses, the judge may determine that they are not entitled to all discovery requested in order to proceed with their preliminary hearing. In these cases, the defense may only be able to obtain certain items if the defendant is held to answer to the criminal charges and the case proceeds to trial.
In some cases, the defense may request discovery information from the personnel file of the arresting officers or from one of the officers associated with the investigation. In these cases, the defense would have to make a Pitchess motion specifically requesting the officer’s personnel file. The judge would review the defendant’s request in chambers and would ultimately determine whether or not to release the information requested.
If you have been charged with a criminal offense, it is absolutely imperative that you discuss your case with a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney as soon as possible. Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer Michael Kraut is a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experiences who is highly respected as a top-notch criminal litigator throughout the court system.
For more information about Los Angeles criminal discovery, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer Michael Kraut at the Kraut Law Group located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1520, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.