Tips to Handle Requests for Documents in the Discovery Process

Posted on: 13 July 2020

A request for documents is part of the discovery process. The defendant can make such a request to help them investigate the evidence under your custody. The following are tips on how to handle such requests.

1. Don't Ignore the Request

Don't ignore the requests even if they seem reasonable; they won't go away if you ignore them. The opposing party will simply petition the court's help to enforce the request. The court will hold you in contempt if you refuse its directives. Contempt of court attracts criminal penalties. In short, reply to the request within the stipulated time to avoid complications.

2. Understand You Are Under Oath

Any document you produce is under sworn testimony. As such, you face perjury charges if you lie. For example, you will face perjury charges if you knowingly produce fake documents or lie about not having some documents. A conviction of perjury can attract both monetary fines and jail time.

3. Give Written Answers

All your answers to the requests for documents must be in writing. Don't call up the other side and explain your answers. If you have the requested documents, attach them to your answer. If you don't have a document, explain your answer in writing. The written documents will serve as evidence in case the other side questions your answers.

4. Make Copies of Everything

Don't send an original copy or the only copy you have of a document. Documents can be lost or defaced. Make copies of every document the other side has requested, and preserve a copy. Note that the request for documents is not strictly or paper documents. The request for documents includes other physical evidence, such as audio and video records. Make copies of such evidence too.

5. Object If Necessary

You don't have to respond to every request. Object to requests that:

  • Are too broad for you to fulfill—for example, a request for "receipts" is considered too broad if it doesn't specify which receipts
  • Are impossible to get—for example, if the documents are not under your authority
  •  Contain privilege information—such as communications between you and your doctor

Some defendants make unreasonable requests to slow down your case and frustrate you. Deal with them by making justifiable objections.

Follow the above tips to get the discovery process right. Don't make a mistake with your replies since it can jeopardize your case. If you don't have a personal injury lawyer, consult one to help you review and reply to the requests.