Discovery is the process by which the prosecution and defense exchange evidence. In Ohio, the discovery process for criminal cases (including O.V.I./D.U.I. cases) is governed by Rule 16 of the Ohio Rules Of Criminal Procedure. Rule 16 was recently revised, and the revised rule became effective on July 1, 2010.
Rule 16 tells us what information the prosecution and defense must exchange. The stated purpose of the rule is “to provide all parties in a criminal case with the information necessary for a full and fair adjudication of the facts, to protect the integrity of the justice system and the rights of defendants, and to protect the well-being of witnesses, victims, and society at large.”
The discovery process in an Ohio D.U.I. (O.V.I.) case is initiated by the defense attorney filing a “demand for discovery”. After the defense lawyer files this demand, the prosecution must provide the following items to the defense:
(1) Statements by the defendant or a co-defendant;
(2) Criminal records of the defendant, co-defendant, and prosecution witnesses;
(3) Laboratory or hospital reports, books, papers, documents, photographs, tangible objects, buildings, and places;
(4) Physical or mental examinations, experiments and scientific tests;
(5) Evidence favorable to the defendant and material to guilt or punishment;
(6) Reports from peace officers; and
(7) Statements of prosecution witnesses.
After the prosecution provides the requested items, the defendant must provide the following items to the prosecution:
(1) Laboratory or hospital reports, books, papers, documents, photographs, tangible objects, buildings and places;
(2) Physical or mental examinations, experiments or scientific tests;
(3) Evidence that tends to negate the guilt of the defendant, or is material to punishment, or tends to support an alib;
(4) Investigative reports; and
(5) Statements of defense witnesses.
In addition, expert witnesses for both sides must prepare a report summarizing the expert witness’s testimony, findings, analysis, conclusions and qualifications.
The new version of Rule 16 is different from the previous version in at least three significant ways. First, the new rule requires the prosecution to provide the defense with reports from peace officers. Second, the new rule requires the exchange of witness statements. Third, the new rule requires the preparation and exchange of expert witness reports.
It is too early to tell what impact the new discovery rule will have on D.U.I./O.V.I. cases in Ohio, as the new version of Rule 16 became effective on July 1, 2010. From the defense perspective, it is a welcome change that the prosecution must provide reports from peace officers and witness statements. These changes certainly are consistent with the rule’s goal “to provide all parties in a criminal case with the information necessary for a full and fair adjudication of the facts.”