Discovery, or the process of gaining access to the prosecution’s evidence, is a crucial part of DUI / DWI defense. An experienced DUI / DWI defense attorney will seek to gain access to every shred of evidence that may help an accused drunk driver fight his or her case. A drunk driving defense lawyer accomplishes this by filing a motion for supplemental discovery.
As in other criminal cases, discovery is based on the notion that the defense is entitled to all the information that will be used by prosecutors in their attempt to convict. Discovery serves multiple purposes in a court case – it is intended to promote the truth, save the court’s time, and to prevent an ambush at trial.
Discovery evidence that is typically provided to the defense without a motion includes the names and addresses of prosecution witnesses, statements made by the defendant, relevant evidence seized or obtained as part of the investigation, exculpatory evidence, results of scientific tests, and all written or recorded statements of witnesses whom the prosecutor intends to call at a prospective trial, including experts.
A lawyer who specializes in DUI / DWI defense will use what is known as a Brady motion to seek additional information that may be beneficial to the defendant. For an example, the attorney may request calibration and maintenance records for the breath testing machines used in the case. Additionally, a discovery motion may be made to obtain a portion of blood or urine samples – commonly referred to as a “split” – in order to have the samples independently tested by a forensic toxicologist.
Other motions include requests for sanctions based on failure to preserve favorable evidence, known as Trombetta/Youngblood motions. Another reason for discovery is to obtain the personnel records of the law enforcement officer involved in the arrest, in what is known as a Pitchess motion.
Both the prosecution and defense first engage in what is known as informal discovery, which begins when both sides present a list of requested materials. If either side fails to comply with the informal discovery process, then opposing counsel may engage in formal discovery.
Formal discovery is overseen by the court rather than between the prosecution and defense. If either party fails to comply with formal discovery, then the court may order sanctions and other penalties. Formal discovery is always preceded by informal discovery, with the exception of Pitchess motions.
Motions for supplemental discovery can be a potent tool in the hands of the right attorney. A drunk driving attorney with a proven track record of fighting and winning DUI / DWI cases will evaluate cases on an individual basis to determine where supplemental discovery will advance the client’s case.