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How does the criminal discovery process work?

When you face Georgia criminal charges, you know you need a good criminal defense attorney. After all, a conviction could put your freedom at stake.

If this is the first you have ever been charged with a crime, you likely are completely unfamiliar with the process. Consequently, you do not know about the discovery process and how important it is to your defense. FindLaw explains that discovery takes place prior to your trial. This is the period during which the prosecutor must, by law, turn over information to your attorney such as the following:

  • Copy of any written or oral statement(s) you made to law enforcement officers
  • Copy of your past criminal record
  • Names of and contact information for any co-defendant(s)
  • Copy of each document on which (s)he intends to rely at trial
  • Copy of each test result on which (s)he intends to rely at trial
  • List of the witnesses (s)he intends to call against you at trial

Conversely, your attorney must give the prosecutor the defense’s witness list and copies of whatever documents and/or test results on which the defense intends to rely at trial.

Further discovery

Your attorney can also file the following during the discovery process and the prosecutor must appropriately respond to them:

  • Interrogatories: written questions to any prosecution witness
  • Requests for Admissions: written statements the witness must admit or deny
  • Requests for Disclosure: written list of further evidence the prosecution has not yet turned over
  • Requests for Production of Documents: written list of further documents the prosecution has not yet turned over
  • Notices of Deposition: notices to the prosecution witnesses your attorney will depose (formally question), such notice to include the date, time and place where the deposition will occur

The prosecutor, in turn, can serve any of the above on any of your witnesses, but (s)he cannot serve them on you. Why? Because the Fifth Amendment guarantees your right against self-incrimination.

The purpose of discovery is to allow each side to know what it faces when it comes time for trial. This is general educational information and not intended to provide legal advice.

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