Discovery Process for a DC DUI

According to Washington, DC procedures, at least initially, the discovery process is conducted on an informal basis. That means that the requests are not made through the court. They are made directly between defense lawyers and the prosecution. The requests need to be specific and exhaustive. Requests are sent directly to a prosecutor assigned to the case, and a prosecutor has the responsibility of complying with their obligations to provide that information in a timely and thorough fashion. In the event that a DC DUI defense lawyer has good reason to believe that a prosecutor has not met their responsibility, the defense lawyer can take that issue up with the judge in the case.

Prosecution Ignoring Requests

In the event that a defense lawyer has good reason to believe that a prosecutor has not met their responsibility, the defense lawyer can take that issue up with the judge in the case. Examples could include filing more official motions with the judge, asking the judge to issue an order requiring the prosecutor to turn over certain information that had not been previously submitted, or asking the judge to penalize the prosecutors for not turning over certain information.

Those penalties are called sanctions and can result in the prosecutors not being permitted to call certain witnesses, use certain evidence, or in some rare situations, result in entire cases or charges being dismissed.

Discovery Against the Defense

Also, the government can conduct discovery against the defense, but the defense has limited obligations to provide the government with discovery. Since the government represents the community as a whole, it is not supposed to hide information from the defense ensures defendants have a fair opportunity to defend themselves. Conversely, a defendant owes few obligations to the prosecution. Therefore, the defense is only required to provide specific and limited types of discovery to the government upon request.

Important to Know

Discovery procedure is one of the most important parts of DUI cases in DC. The discovery process can be complicated, but a DC DUI lawyer familiar with procedures in the District can use discovery to place their client at the greatest possible advantage in their case.

Making a request for discovery can help a defense lawyer advise their client about what the evidence in their case looks like, where their strengths are, and where their weaknesses are. Discovery procedures can also be used to penalize prosecutors who do not comply with the rules of the DC procedure.

If a defense lawyer makes a specific request for a certain type of information and prosecutors do not respond in a timely fashion, it could possibly result in the defense arguing that certain evidence should be thrown out or the entire cases could be dismissed, depending on the seriousness of the violation and the reason for the violation. In many DUI cases there are frequently facts that are not in a defendant’s favor, including field sobriety testing, breath testing, or camera footage. Having a defense lawyer who understands and uses the discovery process can help a defendant overcome what might otherwise be unfavorable facts in a DUI case.


Interrogatories are requests to answer certain questions filed by one party against another party. Interrogatories are usually sets of questions filed in civil cases, not in criminal cases. Thus, interrogatories are not used in DC DUI cases or any other criminal case.


A subpoena is an order for a person to appear in court to serve as a witness, or to produce documents that are necessary in a criminal case. A subpoena can be issued either by a prosecutor in the case or by the defense attorney, and both sides have equal ability to enforce that subpoena with possible penalties if a person does not comply with it. For example, if during the course of an investigation in a DUI case on behalf of a client, a defense lawyer finds out that there may be a witness who can be helpful in the DUI case, the defense lawyer has the ability serve a subpoena on that witness, which will require that witness to show up in court to testify.

In the event that the witness does not show up, the defense lawyer could ask that an arrest warrant be issued for the witness, which would force the witness into court through the arrest. There could be other penalties if that witness did not comply with the subpoena and failed to show up in court when they are arrested.

The defense lawyer can also use a subpoena to request documents that may be relevant in their case. For example, if a DUI lawyer finds out that a private business may have surveillance footage showing the defense lawyer’s client driving their car and the defense lawyer believes that surveillance footage may be helpful in showing that their client was not driving in an erratic manner, the defense lawyer could serve a subpoena on the owner of that private business, requiring them to turn over the surveillance footage. Even though the private business is not part of the case and not a witness in the case, the subpoena would be enforceable and the private business would be required, if they do have that surveillance footage, to turn it over to the defense lawyer so the defense lawyer could possibly use it as evidence in the case.