What is Discovery in a Los Angeles DUI Case?

  • September 4, 2017

    The courts have certain rules in place in order to ensure that the legal process is fair. Lawmakers and judges don’t think it’s fair for people to have to stand trial without being able to know what evidence exists against them. Getting this information is called discovery.

    The purpose of discovery in a criminal case is to allow the person facing the charges to know what evidence the state has to present to the jury. When the defendant has this information, they’re able to make an informed decision about whether to accept a plea offer or take the case to trial to ask for a not guilty verdict.

    To receive discovery, your attorney sends the state’s attorney an appearance and a discovery demand. This is a written document that asks for copies of all of the state’s evidence in the case. The state must produce the information within a reasonable period of time.

    Police report

    Perhaps the most important part of the discovery process is the law enforcement officer’s police report. This is the officer’s written narrative of their investigation of the case. A police report usually includes the reason that the matter came to law enforcement’s attention. If there was an accident, the report states what the officer found at the accident scene. If they stop your vehicle because of the driving they see, the report should detail what the officer found suspicious about the driving.

    The police officer’s report should detail how you perform on standardized field sobriety tests. The report should have enough information in order to determine whether law enforcement properly administered the tests or not. If you took a preliminary alcohol screening, the report should include the results.

    If a report is missing critical information, it’s a red flag. Your attorney can identify key areas where an officer missed information. Your attorney can help you determine whether it’s a sign that the state is missing key pieces of evidence. If there’s missing evidence, your attorney can use this lapse in order to question the law enforcement officer about whether they conducted a thorough investigation or why they didn’t put key information in their report.

    Chemical test results

    It’s important to make sure that your discovery includes chemical test results. Law enforcement should include a copy of the ticket or report that the testing machine printed in the case. It’s not enough for the officer just to list the results of the test in the report. Your attorney needs to see the test paperwork to make sure that law enforcement followed proper procedure when they administered the test. There may be signs on the testing report that something is amiss in your case.

    Video and other recordings

    Dash cams and body cams are becoming more and more common in law enforcement work. Sometimes, a police officer’s dash cam automatically begins to record when they initiate a traffic stop. You should be able to get a copy of the video as part of your discovery.

    Even if law enforcement doesn’t automatically produce a copy of the video in your case, you may be able to use the California Public Records Act in order to get a copy of the video or an audio recording. The Act gives people a right to access copies of public records. This can be a catch-all way to get a copy of helpful video recordings in your case if law enforcement doesn’t volunteer the information.

    Exculpatory evidence

    The constitution requires the state to hand over information that helps to prove your innocence. If there’s any evidence that might work to your favor, the state needs to provide you with a copy of that information. The state can’t just keep quiet about information that they have that shows evidence of your innocence. Instead, they have to make sure that you know about the information.

    An example of this might be the name and contact information of a witness who says that your driving was excellent before the stop. It might be the results of a preliminary alcohol screening that showed that you were under the legal limit. If you did well on a sobriety test, the officer should include the information in their report. They should also include information and details about anything that may have distracted the officer during their investigation. Having a complete picture about the case can help you make the right decisions as your case moves through the courts.

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