Getting arrested for serious criminal offenses can leave someone feeling panicked about what their future likely holds. When a prosecutor decides to file charges against someone, the person accused may feel desperate to minimize the consequences they could face.
It is surprisingly common for those accused of criminal offenses in Missouri to plead guilty because they don’t understand their rights or they worry about the worst-case scenario if they try to fight the charges. That approach puts someone at a disadvantage both because a judge can sentence them as they see fit and because they will have a lifelong criminal record after a guilty plea. Fighting pending criminal charges is often the better option, and many defense strategies start with a review of the evidence against the accused.
The prosecutor must provide access to the evidence
Every defendant facing criminal charges has the right of discovery. The state will need to provide a comprehensive list of the evidence it intends to use during the trial for the defendant and their lawyer to review. Depending on the evidence that the state has, there are many possible ways to develop a defense strategy. In some cases, lawyers will invoke the exclusionary rule. They will establish that the state acquired evidence by violating the law or someone’s rights. An example might be when police officers conduct an illegal search. Excluding certain evidence from court proceedings might make it easier for someone to defend themselves or could result in the state dismissing the charges.
Other times, a review of the evidence could help someone develop a defense strategy by gathering their own evidence. The decision to hire expert witnesses, for example, could change the way the courts view certain forms of evidence or could help establish that there were mistakes made during the collection or analysis of key evidence. Reviewing the chain of custody for the evidence could also help, as gaps in record keeping and other errors could make the evidence less useful during a criminal trial.
Even when it seems as though the state has a very strong case based on the evidence that law enforcement professionals have collected, a defendant may still have multiple options for mounting a defense that will prevent a criminal conviction. Making use of the right of discovery can be an important starting point for those preparing for criminal trial.