Evidence Against You for a Criminal Charge in Middlesex County
New Jersey state and Federal Law require prosecutors to provide criminal defendants with certain documentary evidence, the names of potential witnesses, and other relevant information and physical evidence related to the criminal charges filed against those defendants as the criminal case winds its way through the court system. Unlike what you may see on TV, there should be no surprise witnesses in a criminal trial. Information must be exchanged between the prosecution and the defense early and often. This evidence that the prosecution (and, under certain circumstances, the defense) must share with the other side leading up to trial is broadly known as “discovery” or “discovery information.” Here is a general background on what discovery is and why it matters so much if you are facing charges for shoplifting, burglary, simple assault, drunk driving, or another crime. To discuss your criminal charge in Middlesex County or elsewhere in New Jersey with an experienced NJ criminal defense lawyer who can help, contact our office anytime at (732) 659-9600. An attorney is available right away to provide you with a free consultation.
What is Discovery in a New Jersey Criminal Case?
Discovery can encompass many types of information. As a general rule, under the landmark Brady v. Maryland case, the prosecution must disclose all exculpatory information in its possession to the defense. Beyond that overarching general requirement, typically, a person charged with a criminal offense in New Jersey will receive a copy of the police report documenting the offense as a starting point. That report will often include the names and addresses of relevant witnesses, statements made by suspects or arrestees in a case, and similar information. The prosecution must also potentially disclose medical or psychiatric reports that pertain to the credibility of witnesses, information related to police informants, certain criminal records related to the credibility of witnesses, and witness lists so that the defendant has notice of the witnesses who may be called against her or him.
Types of Evidence for Criminal Charges in Edison
If the case involves chemical testing—which is common in DWI and DUI cases, certain assault by auto and vehicular manslaughter cases, drug possession involving cocaine, marijuana, heroin, or prescription drugs, charges for intent to distribute CDS and drug sales cases, and many other types of cases up to and including murder prosecutions—the prosecution will also provide the defense with copies of the relevant chemical test reports. This may include toxicology tests identifying a particular substance as a drug, a blood test reporting drugs or alcohol in the defendant’s blood, or a breath test that places the defendant above or below the state’s per se blood alcohol level for driving.
There are many other types of discovery that the prosecution must provide to the defense. These can include expert witness reports and notice of physical evidence that may be introduced, such as a gun, knife, or other relevant object. The defense is also required to disclose expert reports and other discovery under certain circumstances. For example, a Drug Recognition Expert report may be included in the discovery if you have been charged with a drug DUI in New Jersey.
Using Discovery for your Best Defense in New Brunswick
Your criminal defense attorney depends on timely discovery disclosures to prepare her or his trial strategy, hire experts to assist in your defense, and to properly evaluate prosecution plea offers. After receiving discovery, our attorneys are positioned to run confirmatory tests, evaluate the prosecution’s theory of how the crime occurred, and potentially identify exculpatory witnesses. We are trained in specific procedures and protocols involving DWI and we often use errors in field sobriety tests or breath testing to have our clients’ charges dismissed. Conversely, it is almost impossible to mount an adequate defense without knowing the evidence that will be marshaled against you.
Under Rules of Court 7:7-7, which in broad terms governs discovery in municipal courts, and 3:13-3, which generally governs discovery related to indictable offenses, prosecutors are required to give defendants discovery at several different stages of a criminal prosecution. For example, discovery must sometimes be provided at the time of a pre-indictment plea offer, and it must also be provided following an indictment or charges for disorderly persons offense and certain quasi-criminal offenses.
If a party fails to comply with discovery rules, the court may issue a broad range of penalties. Usually, the court will grant the opposing side a brief continuance to review and prepare their response to any late-disclosed discovery. Egregious discovery violations may also result in the exclusion of the withheld evidence and other sanctions. In some cases, the prosecution’s failure to provide discovery in a timely manner can be used as grounds for a dismissal.
Need a Lawyer to Fight the Evidence Against You in South Brunswick?
If you have been accused of a crime, you should speak with a lawyer about the charges and what you can do to fight them. A highly experienced Middlesex County criminal lawyer at our firm will be able to offer additional insight on the discovery in your case and potential ways to challenge the evidence. Call (732) 659-9600 now for a free consultation.