pretrial discovery | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Evidence Law

Pretrial discovery refers to the legal process by which parties to a criminal case exchange information and evidence before trial.

In the criminal justice system, pretrial discovery allows the prosecution and defense to gather and exchange information relevant to the case. This can include witness statements, police reports, forensic evidence, and other materials that may be used to support or challenge the charges being brought against the defendant.

Pretrial discovery is typically governed by rules of criminal procedure, which set forth the procedures and requirements for exchanging information between the parties. These rules may vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction but generally require both sides to disclose certain information to each other in a timely manner.

The purpose of pretrial discovery is to ensure that both sides have access to all of the relevant information and evidence needed to prepare their case for trial. This can help to prevent surprises at trial and ensure that each side has a fair opportunity to present their case.

Several methods of pretrial discovery may be used in a criminal case. These may include:

      1. Depositions: A deposition is a formal interview of a witness or party to the case, conducted under oath and recorded by a court reporter. Depositions allow the parties to ask questions and gather information from witnesses before trial.
      2. Interrogatories: Interrogatories are written questions submitted by one party to the other, which must be answered in writing under oath. Interrogatories can be a useful tool for obtaining information about the other side’s case.
      3. Requests for production of documents: A request for the production of documents is a formal demand for the other party to produce certain documents or other materials. This can include police reports, medical records, or other evidence that may be relevant to the case.
      4. Requests for admission: A request for admission is a written request for the other party to admit or deny certain facts about the case. This can help to narrow the issues in dispute and streamline the trial process.

Pretrial discovery is an important part of the criminal justice system, as it allows both sides to gather the information they need to prepare their case for trial. However, it is also subject to certain limitations and restrictions, particularly with respect to the disclosure of privileged information or information that may be prejudicial to one side or the other. It is important for parties to a criminal case to work closely with their attorneys to ensure that they comply with the rules of pretrial discovery and protect their rights throughout the process.

Learn More

On This Site

[ Glossary ]

Last Modified: 03/13/2023


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.