Discovery and inspection are terms that describe the way parties share information in both civil and criminal cases. In a civil case, both parties can demand discovery to get copies of files, documents and other items relevant to the case. Parties can also demand inspection of things that are difficult to produce, such as a computer hard drive or a building. If you are a defendant in a criminal case, you can demand discovery and inspection from the prosecutor to get an idea of what evidence the state will use against you. This aids in preparing a defense against the charges.
In Criminal Cases
While inspection and discovery are used in both civil and criminal cases, a demand for discovery and inspection is most common in criminal matters. In criminal cases, such a demand is a formal paper that a defendant serves on the prosecutor and files with the court. These motion papers must comply with the rules of the jurisdiction in which the case is being tried. For example, if you are a defendant in a federal case, your demand for discovery and inspection has to meet the requirements set out in Rule 16 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. States will have their own distinct rules dealing with discovery and inspection.
Failure to Respond
If a defendant properly serves a discovery and inspection demand and the government fails to comply, the prosecution may be sanctioned. Under federal law, for example, the trial could be delayed or undisclosed evidence may be tossed out.
- Cornell University Law School, Legal Information Institute: Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, Rule 16, Discovery and Inspection
- Justia: 2011 Wisconsin Code, Chapter 971, Section 971.23, Discovery and Inspection
- New Jersey Courts: Rule 4.18, Discovery And Inspection Of Documents And Property; Copies of Documents
Trent Jonas accepted his first assignment in 1988 from "The Minnesota Daily" and has been writing professionally ever since, primarily as a copywriter. He is an experienced traveler with a background in advertising, entrepreneurship and as an attorney. Jonas has a Bachelor of Arts in English writing from the University of Minnesota and a Juris Doctor from Hamline University.