When you go into court, there's a good chance you'll want to know what the other side knows. Fortunately, the American legal system overtly encourages this through a process called discovery. This is a requirement that the two sides in a case make each other aware of any evidence they might introduce if there's a hearing or trial. Likewise, they must provide each other with lists of any witnesses they might call.
A lawyer's client might wonder what the benefits of discovery are. You should be aware of these three.
The image of a criminal lawyer in a movie showing up to court with last-minute evidence is exciting. It is also deeply illegal. At a minimum, the judge will strike anything the jury saw or hear. Worse, the lawyer could be sanctioned, disbarred, or even jailed if the judge feels it crossed the line.
Although discovery undermines the sense of drama in a trial, it also prevents you from being ambushed. If a prosecutor wants to add a witness that wasn't previously listed in the middle of a trial, for example, a criminal defense lawyer has every right to object. There's a good chance the judge will sustain the objection, too. Also, allowing the witness opens up an argument for an appeal if the defendant is convicted.
In the strictest sense, fishing expeditions aren't allowed. However, an attorney usually can justify the discovery of materials that might bear fruit. If a lawyer is handling a personal injury case involving an accident at a store, for example, they would be able to demand surveillance videos. Likewise, they could probably demand discovery of maintenance logs, records of employees' hours, and even records from the hiring of employees who were present during the accident.
What's often nice about this element of discovery is that it can prompt stubborn parties into seeing the writing on the wall. Suppose a personal injury attorney is reviewing video of the moments before an accident involving a passerby near a construction site. They might see that a worker at the site took down a cordon around a hole in a sidewalk minutes before the victim fell into the hole.
Many civil rights violations in cases don't become evident until discovery. For example, a criminal lawyer can demand the discovery of police body camera videos. The camera might show that a cop planted evidence. If that's never discovered, the prosecution might proceed even though the case is tainted.
To learn more, contact someone like a personal injury lawyer or criminal defense lawyer.