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Brady Information in DC Criminal Cases

For those facing a criminal charge in DC, it is important to have access to as much evidence as possible when building your defense. With this in mind, the following is information on what access the government is required to provide during a criminal case and how issues with the request of this information may arise. To learn more, call and schedule a consultation with a DC criminal lawyer today.

Access to Government Information During DC Criminal Cases

The government does not provide access to all of their information and evidence. There is certain information that must be provided by the government, the timing of which depends upon whether it’s a misdemeanor or a felony case and, if it’s a felony case, whether an indictment has occurred or not. But the government does not have to give the name or contact information of every witness before trial. The government does not have to give statements made by witnesses that they don’t intend to use unless their statements are definitely helpful for the defense.

Often there are surprises at trial. For example, once the trial starts, the defense may learn the name of a person that the government intends to use as a witness at trial. While there is information that the defense is privy to before the case goes to trial, there is still some evidence and information that the defense does not get prior to trial.

What is Brady Information?

“Brady” information comes from the United States Supreme Court decision that came down years ago, having to do with information in the government’s possession that is beneficial to the defense. Specifically, for information that could be used by the defense to rebut the allegations or the evidence against the defense, prosecutors have an affirmative duty to turn over Brady information.

An example would be if the government locates a witness in their investigation and the witness gives them a statement about having personally witnessed what happened. That statement is helpful to the defense. In other words, the witness says they saw this crime occur and identifies the person who did it but it is not the defendant.

The government would not want to call that witness in its case against that defendant but the government has the duty to turn over that information to the defense because that witness would clearly be helpful to the defense. In a situation like that, the government absolutely has to turn over their information. In every case, information that may be considered Brady can be different. It depends on the specific facts of the case.

Why Does The Government Need to Turn This Information Over?

It is a violation of the defendant’s constitutional rights for the government to suppress or hide information that’s favorable to the defense that was uncovered during the course of their investigation and prosecution of the case.

Issues Regarding Brady Information Requests

In every situation where there is Brady information-and this is information in the government’s control-the defense makes a general demand at the beginning of the case that the government turnover any Brady information. Of course, the government has that duty. However, sometimes during the course of a case, the defense may learn of the existence of, for example, a particular witness, or of a particular fact, or piece of evidence. They don’t have all the information but they have reason to believe the government does have either all of that information or at least more information on that issue or fact.

At that point, the defense makes a specific Brady request stating they have come to learn of this potential information and that the government may have information about it. The defense demands that the information be turned over. The government either turns over the information or states they don’t have the information or they do but don’t believe that it’s Brady material. At this point, the defense must decide whether or not they want to litigate that issue by bringing it to the court’s attention and have a hearing on the matter.

The process of getting information that is Brady information involves asking the court for a court order to the government for the information to be turned over to the defense because the government made the initial decision as to whether or not that information is truly Brady information.