27. What is "Discovery," and what is a "Discovery request?"

Discovery is the process used before trial to allow both you and the State to learn about the facts of the case. Sometimes, discovery helps the parties resolve the case before trial. There are seven types of discovery:

  1. Requests for disclosure – This type of discovery is just the exchange of basic information between the parties. Requests for disclosure usually include the names and addresses of the parties and witnesses.
  2. Requests for production, inspection of documents, and tangible things – This type of discovery is used to get copies of documents and inspect other physical items relevant to the case.  
  3. Requests and motions for entry upon and examination of real property – This type of discovery is used to gain access to land. Real property discovery allows a party to inspect, measure, test, or photograph land or property.
  4. Interrogatories – This type of discovery is a set of written questions that requires answers under oath from the person or entity answering the questions.  The questions are used to narrow the issues, identify possible witnesses, and determine relevant documents.
  5. Requests for admission – This type of discovery is used to simplify the case by forcing parties to state basic facts about the case.  A request for admission requires you to simply admit or deny certain facts.  It is like answering a set of true/false questions.
  6. Oral or written depositions – This type of discovery is used to get sworn testimony before trial. A deposition is like what happens on a witness stand, except that it takes place outside the courtroom and before the trial. 
  7. Motions for mental or physical examinations – This type of discovery is used to determine if there is an issue with the mental or physical health of a party.

It is common for the State to send you requests for disclosure, requests for production, interrogatories, and requests for admission. The State may also decide to combine different types of discovery into one discovery request.

In our example, the State may request that Steve answer an interrogatory with questions about what happened before and during the traffic stop with Officer Potts. The State may also ask Steve to show proof that he got the cash from the check casher. Steve should ask the State for the police report filed by Officer Potts (the officer who took his property), as well as any video or audio recorded during the traffic stop. Steve can ask for the police report by sending a "Request for Production, Inspection of Documents, and Tangible Things" to the State.