How the right of discovery can help those accused of crimes in Texas
Some of the most valuable civil rights specifically focus on an individual’s rights during a criminal case. Police officers and other state authorities are required to follow the law when searching for evidence or questioning someone as part of an investigation, for example.
Defendants preparing for trial also have certain rights that help ensure they have a fair opportunity to present their side of the situation. One of the many rules that protect the rights of those accused of breaking the law in Texas is the right of discovery.
What is the right of discovery?
The right of discovery is essentially a rule that allows someone facing criminal charges to access the state’s evidence against them. A criminal defense attorney representing someone in Texas can submit a request to the prosecutor for the evidence that they will present in court.
Defendants can access a list of witness names and even the criminal records of those who will serve as witnesses. They have a right to review forensic evidence, reports submitted by laboratories, police reports and any other significant evidence that the prosecutor intends to present in court. Internal communications between the prosecutor and the authorities investigating the case and the legal research of the prosecutor are typically not subject to the right of discovery, but the actual evidence that they will use in court will be.
Having access to that information gives a criminal defense attorney an opportunity to analyze it for accuracy and to put together a strategy for defending their client. Sometimes, they can use the exclusionary rule to keep certain evidence out of court because investigators violated the law when collecting that evidence. Other times, they could bring in expert witnesses to raise questions about how the state gathered or analyzed that evidence.
Simply having enough evidence to file charges does not guarantee that the state can successfully prosecute someone accused of violating Texas state law. A thorough review of the evidence as allowed under discovery rules – with the assistance of a skilled criminal defense attorney – can help establish the most effective defense strategy for someone’s specific circumstances.