Legal Dictionary

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Discovery

Discovery (in criminal law) is the process used by the prosecution and the defense of demanding and receiving another party's information before trial. During the discovery process, the parties attempt to determine the strengths and weaknesses of their own and each others' cases and to uncover any evidence that the opposing side will use if the matter were to go to trial. Evidence uncovered during the discovery process is also used during settlement (plea bargain) negotiations.

In general, discovery is more limited for the prosecution. A state's criminal procedure laws determine how the discovery process is conducted in a criminal case. In civil law, discovery is most commonly accomplished with depositions, interrogatories and requests for admissions and production. Failure to comply with a discovery request can result in sanctions.