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The Pretrial Discovery Process in New York Criminal Trials

When someone is arrested for a New York crime, the prosecution is subject to certain rules. Most of the rules that are imposed on prosecutors are designed to ensure that the defendant is provided a fair trial. After all, the prosecution’s primary responsibility is to see that justice is done, not necessarily to win their case.

This tension between the pursuit of justice and obtaining a conviction has led to some tragic outcomes involving innocent men and women spending their lives in prison based on the crimes that someone else committed. Hence the reason for special rules that govern criminal cases. One of the most essential rules involves pretrial discovery.

Pretrial discovery refers to the process in which the parties provide the opposing sides certain information in their possession. The idea is to prevent the sort of trial by ambush that is commonly seen on television. When it comes to pretrial discovery in a New York criminal case, prosecutors must provide any material evidence that may be favorable to the defense, in either the guilt or punishment phase of a trial.

In practice, this means that a prosecutor must provide the defense with much of the contents of their file, including witnesses’ names and statements, video surveillance, and all police paperwork generated during the arrest and investigation. Importantly, New York discovery rules may also require the disclosure of a detective’s notes about another suspect who was not ultimately charged, or notes about conflicting statements made by the alleged victims.

One of the critical issues that New York lawmakers recently dealt with is the timing of discovery in a criminal trial. According to a recent news report, until recently, the prosecution could withhold discovery – essentially blindfolding the defendant – until the last moment, giving the defendant inadequate time to investigate and prepare a case. And because most criminal cases end up in a plea agreement, it had the effect of applying undue pressure to defendants to plead guilty, especially those in custody who had little means of finding anything out about the reason for their arrest. However, earlier this year, New York lawmakers passed a much fairer discovery bill into law that requires the prosecution to provide all discovery to a defendant within three days of his court appearance. Not surprisingly, the state’s district attorneys were against the discovery bill, primarily based on the purported fear of victim intimidation.

Have You Been Arrested for a New York Crime?

If you have recently been arrested and charged with a serious New York felony crime, contact the dedicated criminal defense attorneys at the law firm of Tilem & Associates. At our New York criminal defense practice, we aggressively defend our clients from the charges they face, regardless of the nature of the allegations. We have assembled an experienced team of skilled defense attorneys who are passionate about their work, and ensuring that our client’s rights are upheld through the process. We represent clients in all types of cases, including New York drug cases, gun crimes, and violent crimes. To learn more, call 877-377-8666 to schedule a free consultation today.