When presenting a case, a criminal defense lawyer has several tools that will allow them to drill into what the prosecution has on a defendant. Learning how much of a case a prosecutor has can help a criminal defense attorney and their client figure out how to proceed. Here are some ways your lawyer will try to establish what's going on.
The Arraignment Hearing
Your first good opportunity to call the prosecution's case into question will come at the initial hearing, frequently referred to as the arraignment. The court is supposed to order an arraignment hearing within several days of your arrest to ensure your right to a trial is enforced. At the arraignment, you'll be formally told what the charges against you are. If the police filed an affidavit, you'll also have the chance to review its contents and call any cops involved with the case to testify.
During arraignment, the prosecution has to give the judge enough information to justify moving forward with a trial. The criminal defense will get to hear what this justification is and try to poke holes in it. Even if the case isn't dismissed, the arraignment will provide major clues about what the prosecutor thinks they can prove.
If the case moves forward, the judge will order what's called discovery. This is a legally-required process where the prosecution has to turn over all evidence it has to the criminal defense counsel. Note that the prosecution has to turn everything over, including evidence that might exonerate you.
This will be your first chance to consider what the prosecution has. For example, someone accused of involvement in a shooting will get to see whether the state has bullets and shell casings.
Also, the evidence that's turned over must include information about its chain of custody. This can tell you which officers and lab techs handled the materials, providing clues about who's involved with the case.
Oftentimes, the identities of the people assigned to a case will give the criminal defense attorney an idea of how the prosecution sees the case. If a police officer with a background in RICO is attached to a drug case, for example, that shows the prosecution thinks it's onto more organized criminal activity. If the prosecution brings in a similarly trained attorney, you can almost bet that's where they plan to go with the case. That will allow you to position your defense accordingly.