Discovery begins after a grand jury or New Jersey's Federal District Court judge has approved an indictment. If you reach the discovery phase, a trial is imminent.
Your lawyer will be busy preparing your defense at trial, and may remain in communication with the prosecutor about a possible plea agreement. Nevertheless, a capable lawyer will give their undivided attention to Discovery, which is a pivotal stage in New Jersey's federal court process.
What Is Discovery?
The name “discovery” is quite literal, as this is the process by which each side (the prosecution and defense attorney) discovers the evidence and witnesses that the other side plans to furnish during trial. Discovery is important for a defense attorney because:
- In order to prepare questions for the prosecution's witnesses, the defense attorney must know which witnesses the prosecution will present
- The prosecution may turn over evidence that favors the defense and that the defense attorney was not previously aware of
- The discovery process provides great insight into the prosecution's case, and therefore serves as a roadmap for your defense
Discovery may be only as beneficial as a defense attorney makes it. The process is such that the prosecution may not have to reveal certain information if a defense attorney does not make the necessary requests. Therefore, it is critical that your defense attorney have extensive knowledge of the federal discovery process.
Does the Prosecutor Have to Hand Over Evidence and Other Elements of Their Case?
Rule 16 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure governs the discovery process in federal criminal cases. This rule, and related case precedent, generally requires the prosecution to:
- Reveal any exculpatory evidence in its possession
- Reveal any evidence, witnesses, and other materials it plans to use at trial
- Allow the defense to make copies of materials or objects it plans to use during trial
- Provide any information that undermines the credibility of witnesses it will present during trial
- Provide a written summary of expert witness testimony it plans to present at trial
The discovery process for federal criminal cases in New Jersey is considered to be limited. The prosecution may have certain protections, such as the right to protect the identity of confidential informants. However, a capable defense attorney will press the limits of Discovery to glean as much information as possible about the prosecution's case against you.
How Does the Discovery Process Happen in Federal Criminal Cases in New Jersey?
During your arraignment, your attorney will sign a discovery agreement with the prosecutor trying your case in New Jersey District Court. This agreement will establish deadlines for producing certain materials as part of Discovery.
While specific steps in the discovery process may occur in front of a judge in a courtroom, Discovery may be ongoing throughout your trial. For example, if your attorney becomes aware of specific evidence that it did not request during the initial discovery period, it may request a copy of that evidence even once trial has begun.
The judge has ultimate discretion over Discovery, and can permit or deny the use of specific evidence or witnesses at trial. In certain cases, and as part of Discovery, defense attorneys and prosecutors may question witnesses before trial. These interviews are known as depositions, and may be necessary when a witness cannot testify in person during a trial.
Get a Capable Attorney to Lead the Discovery Process During Your Federal Case in New Jersey
If your case is approaching the discovery phase, you want to be sure that your attorney is capable and invested in providing the best defense possible. It is never too late to hire a defense attorney or change attorneys, and it may be in your interests to do so.
A lawyer who takes full advantage of the discovery process may uncover valuable evidence, discover flaws in the prosecution's case, and take steps toward a dismissal or exoneration. The Lento Law Firm has extensive experience with federal discovery processes, so let us represent you during your federal trial in New Jersey.
Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 or contact us online.