Hi, I’m Richard Waring, and I’m a criminal defense attorney in Charleston, SC. If you’ve been charged with a DUI, possession of marijuana or cocaine, trafficking, burglary, or some other crime, maybe you’re wondering, “will the government show me any paperwork about my criminal case? Will they tell me what evidence they have on me?”
First off, in 1963, the United States Supreme Court decided a case called Brady v. Maryland. And, in that case they held that in all criminal cases, the prosecution is required to give all evidence that is material to guilt or that is exculpatory (that’s anything tending to prove your innocence) over to you before your trial takes place, or let you inspect it. So, if you’ve been charged with a robbery mainly because a victim picked you out as the perpetrator, the government would absolutely have to disclose to you later if that victim subsequently changed her mind and stated that actually it was a different person who robbed her.
In addition, under the Brady case, the prosecutor has to turn over to you any evidence that would serve as impeachment evidence for you against a government witness. So, for example, let’s say that you’ve been charged with a crime, and again the main evidence against you is a victim identification of you out of a photographic lineup. If that victim has a bunch of crimes of dishonesty on their own RAP sheet or criminal history, the government would have to disclose that to you because your criminal defense attorney might be able to use those crimes of dishonesty to impeach the victim, or otherwise call into question the credibility of the victim at trial.
Also under the Brady case, the government would have to disclose to you evidence that would tend to reduce your sentence. Failure of the government to provide these things is a violation of your constitutional due process rights. OK, so up until this point, everything I’ve mentioned has come from case law, and you are given these rights through that.
In addition to all of that, South Carolina has the South Carolina Rules of Criminal Procedure, which provide some additional guidelines. Specifically, Rule 5 of the South Carolina Rules of Criminal Procedure provides that, upon request by you, the prosecution has to provide you with or let you inspect any statements you’ve made, your prior criminal history, any books, papers, documents, photographs, tangible objects, buildings or places, which are under the custody and control of the prosecution, and which are material to the preparation of your defense or are intended for use by the prosecution as evidence at trial. In addition, the government has to turn over any results or reports of physical or mental examinations and scientific tests or experiment results.
So, for example, in practice, if you’ve been charged with possession of marijuana that stems from a traffic stop, you’ll typically get any dashboard cameras from the police vehicles, and body camera videos, the incident report, your RAP sheet, and a copy of the drug lab report that shows that the alleged drug you possessed was in fact marijuana. If the case against you is more serious and there were recorded witness interviews, crime scene photos, surveillance footage, and other things like that, all of that should be provided to you too.
The government is supposed to give you all of the previously mentioned items (simply called “discovery” or “Rule 5 materials”) in a timely fashion, and a good criminal defense attorney in Charleston, SC, Mt. Pleasant, James Island, Berkeley county, or Dorchester county will stay on top of the prosecutor to make sure that you’re getting everything you’re entitled to.
Now, keep in mind that there is such a thing as reciprocal discovery. What that means is that if the government requests it, you and your criminal defense attorney have to provide the government with some of the same material I mentioned previously, if y’all plan to introduce that evidence at trial. That’s important to understand if you plan to introduce any evidence at trial.
Rule 5 of the South Carolina Rules of Criminal Procedure also dictates that there is a continuing duty to disclose any of the previously mentioned materials, if they keep coming into existence prior to trial. So, even though the prosecutor has given you the whole case file, as new items of evidence become available later on, they have to give you that too.
The bottom line is that you’ll want a good criminal defense attorney who, at the very beginning of your case, is going to file a Rule 5 request and a Brady motion, so that you can get all of the discovery items you’re entitled to get. That attorney will also be diligent in making sure that what you receive from the government is in fact everything that you’re entitled to.
Alright, that’s it for now on discovery in criminal cases. And, if you’re in the Charleston, Berkeley, or Dorchester county areas of South Carolina, feel free to give me a call anytime, and we can go over the particulars of your DUI, burglary, gun charge, or whatever the crime might be, to ensure that you’re getting all of the discovery items you’re entitled to. Best of luck.
DISCLAIMER: This video is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice. No action or inaction should be taken as a result of viewing this video without first speaking with an attorney. No expectation of a result can be deduced from this video. This video also does not imply in any way that the Law Office of Richard Waring, LLC will achieve a better result on your case than any other attorney. No attorney/client relationship is formed by viewing this video.