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What is Discovery in a Criminal Case?

In a criminal case, discovery is the process of obtaining evidence that the other side may use during trial. Both the defense and prosecution will receive copies of all the evidence that the other side has for the case. This is each sides’ opportunity to look through all of the evidence the opposing side has. The purpose of the prosecution and defense exchanging trial evidence is to allow both parties to get a full picture of what will be presented at trial, to avoid any surprises regarding the facts of the case. If done properly, the process of discovery can be a time consuming undertaking, but is incredibly important to any case going to trial.

What is Included in Discovery for Both Parties?

Discovery for the defense (given by the prosecution) are:

  • grand jury minutes
    • a transcript of all the testimony and evidence presented to a grand jury
  • written or recorded statements or interviews
  • any facts of exculpatory nature
    • evidence or facts that point to the innocence of the defendant
  • intended expert witness reports
  • the names, addresses, and dates of birth of any of the prosecution’s possible witnesses
  • the names and business addresses of potential law enforcement witnesses
  • a summary of all identification procedures
  • all relevant police reports or intended exhibits
  • disclosure of all promises, rewards or inducements made to witnesses the party intends to present at trial

The discovery from the Commonwealth (given by the defense) varies slightly, and include:

  • written or recorded statements or interviews
  • reports of intended expert witnesses
  • all relevant police reports or intended exhibits
  • disclosure of all promises, rewards or inducements made to witnesses the party intends to present at trial

As you can probably tell, there is a lot that goes into the discovery process, and it is a vital part of the trial process. This is one of the reasons why it is incredibly important for defense attorneys to be detail oriented. It is crucial that a defense attorney read through all discovery carefully, in case there is anything in those files that may be helpful for your defense. In fact, I’ve had cases where just one file is the key to planting “reasonable doubt” into the jurors minds.

The discovery process can be a complex, and reading all the discovery from a case tends to be time consuming, so it is crucial to hire an experienced defense attorney who knows the ins and outs of the process. If you’ve been charged with a crime, the Law Office of Matthew W. Peterson is here to help. I have successfully represented many clients in criminal defense cases, and I will do everything I can to make sure you feel confident going into a trial. I am not afraid to fight for you in court, and I do no shy away from jury trials.

I have office locations in Boston and Salem, Massachusetts, but we take on cases all over the state. Call or text my office today at 617-295-7500, and let’s get started on your defense!



Although I am an attorney, I am not your attorney.  Please do not rely on anything on this page as legal advice because any specific advice would depend on your situation.  Any results posted on this page are not guarantees of outcomes in your case.

Boston Attorney

The court system is stressful, whether you’re being charged with a crime, being sued, suing someone, or fighting for your ability to stay and work in this country. You need someone who appreciates this and can dedicate the time not only to represent you effectively in court but to guide you through the process.

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