What Is a “motion for Discovery” in Legal Terms?

A motion for discovery is a motion made to the court by the party of a criminal proceeding or civil lawsuit to obtain information or evidence regarding the case, Free Advice explains. Discover is the process of receiving this information, which is a guarantee under the U.S. Constitution.

The rules on how a party can proceed with requesting or obtaining the evidence varies by state, but generally the parties must make a motion to obtain the materials, Free Advice says. In a civil lawsuit, both sides can request information that is evidence relevant to their case or information that could lead to the discovery or relevant evidence. The majority of states have established automatic rules for certain items, and if one party requests the information, the other side faces sanctions if it fails to provide it.

Discovery in criminal matters is different, as a defendant does not have an automatic right to the discovery process, Free Advice notes. Many states make filing a motion mandatory before the court orders the state to produce the evidence. Stage agencies are required to make the evidence they have available for the defense, but they are not required to produce evidence the defense wants to have.