The first step is to find an experienced criminal defense attorney to represent you. The second step is to decide, based on the evidence, whether you want to go to trial or work out a resolution of your case in some other form.
The pretrial process is important. The first thing you want to consider is if you are eligible for bond pending disposition of your case. The second step is to file motions for discovery and special information requesting search warrant documents, if they apply in your case, in order to see whether any of these can be attacked. Obtaining as much evidence as possible before your case progresses helps a defendant to decide what is in their best interest. Evidence concerning search warrants is one of the most litigated parts of the pretrial process and is known as a suppression hearing. The Fourth Amendment protects you from unreasonable search and seizure in your car, on your person, in your home, business, and other places where elements of the crime might be located. The government must follow specific procedures in exercising the authority to search by probable cause or exigent circumstances or to obtain a warrant. All of this information is helpful in determining whether you can attack the government’s conduct on search and seizure issues.
There are several types of pretrial motions that can be filed including pre-indictment delays, statute of limitations, request for a bill of particulars, general discovery or what evidence the government will have against you, speedy trial violations, sufficiency of the indictment based on inadequate information and notice of the charges and penalties, and duplicity.
There are other creative pretrial motions such as motions to limit the government’s use of certain evidence such as 404(b) evidence. 404(b) evidence includes prior criminal acts to be used at the trial against you or to enhance your sentence. Many of these items can be attacked in the pretrial process in an attempt not to use them to bolster the government’s case or ability to convict you. Your prior convictions are discoverable along with those of other defendants who are going to be testifying against you. The identity of informants and witnesses against you is important and is part of the discovery process.
There are three cases that dictate how discovery is determined. For example, the Jencks Act provides a criminal defendant the right to obtain certain types of statements of a government witness but only after the witness has testified in the government’s case in chief. See 18 U.S.C. 3500. Other information under Brady v. Maryland 373 U.S. 83, 83 S.Ct. 1194 (1963) allows defendants the right to exculpatory evidence prior to trial and it is the prosecutors who decide whether an item is material and exculpatory (favorable) and thus qualifies for disclosure. Not every jurisdiction has the same rules governing the timing of disclosure but disclosure is eventually required if you decide to take the case to trial.
If your case goes to trial you have the right to confront witnesses against you. This means all witnesses and this may also apply to any sentencing proceedings. See Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36, 50, 124 S.Ct. 1359 (2004). It is important to get an attorney who is well-versed in how to direct your case depending on discovery information and to determine what pretrial motions are appropriate.