What Are the Consequences for Violating the Brady Rule?

Criminal cases in the United States are adversarial. The prosecution has the burden of proving that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The defendant has the right to present a vigorous defense in court. Each party presents evidence for the jury or judge to consider supporting their arguments and accusations. 

An exception to the adversarial role of a prosecutor is the Brady Rule. The prosecution in a DUI case must disclose specific types of evidence to the defendant. However, some prosecutors ignore this rule or claim they were not aware they had specific evidence in their possession. A violation of the Brady Rule could have several favorable results for the defendant, including setting aside a guilty verdict. 

What is the Brady Rule?

The Brady Rule came out of the Brady v. Maryland case decided by the United States Supreme Court. The court held that a prosecutor has a duty to disclose favorable evidence to the defendants under the Fifth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment upon request. Any exculpatory evidence or material that pertains to the defendant’s guilt or punishment must be turned over to the defense. 

Exculpatory evidence is evidence that would be favorable to the defendant. The evidence may help prove the defendant’s innocence, create reasonable doubt, or damage the prosecution’s case. Failing to comply with the rule is known as a Brady violation.

What is a Brady Violation?

A Brady violation has three components:

  • The prosecution must have suppressed the information 
  • The suppressed information must have been favorable to the defendant
  • The defendant was prejudiced because of the suppression of evidence

The Brady decision dealt with due process in the judicial system. The court made it clear that the prosecution has a duty to hand over certain information and evidence to the defense. Failing to do so violated the defendant’s right to due process.

Suppression of Evidence by the Prosecution 

The first element of the Brady Rule focuses on the prosecution’s conduct in suppressing the evidence. Willfully and intentionally failing to disclose information and evidence favorable to the defense violates the Brady Rule.

However, the prosecution could violate the Brady Rule even if it was not aware that it had favorable information in its possession. Any favorable evidence the prosecution has must be disclosed to the defense. Therefore, a prosecutor who forgets to turn over information or fails to review all evidence before trial to determine if the evidence is exculpatory could be guilty of a Brady violation. 

Favorable Evidence Includes All Evidence

Brady evidence generally refers to tangible items, such as documents and items in the prosecution’s possession. Brady information refers to any information the prosecution gains from interviewing witnesses or through an investigation. 

Some prosecutors try to avoid the Brady Rule by not writing down information. Therefore, many courts use the term Brady information instead of Brady evidence to make it clear to the prosecution that it has a duty to disclose all favorable information, regardless of how the information was obtained or the information’s format.

Furthermore, the disclosure of information required under the Brady Rule is not limited to admissible evidence. The evidence could be considered Brady Rule information if the evidence could lead to admissible evidence.

Undermining the Confidence in the Outcome of the Trial

Deciding whether a Brady violation prejudiced the defendant can be the most difficult element of a Brady violation. The court should not entertain arguments from the prosecution that other evidence would have been sufficient to convict the defendant, or the outcome of the case would have been the same.

The court must conduct a detailed analysis of the factual record to determine whether the prosecutor violated the Brady Rule. If the confidence in the trial’s outcome could be questioned because of the failure to disclose Brady evidence, the court should rule in favor of the defendant. 

Examples of Brady Evidence in a DUI Case in California 

There is no set rule for how a prosecutor must comply with the Brady Rule. Generally, the prosecution sends evidence and information to the defense attorney. However, the office may “bury” Brady Rule documents within the unfavorable evidence. Therefore, an experienced DUI defense lawyer thoroughly reviews each document and each piece of evidence to determine whether the evidence could favor the defendant. 

Generally, Brady evidence includes, but is not limited to:

  • Scientific reports (i.e., reports that indicate breathalyzer tests based on partition ratios may not always be accurate)
  • Pre-trial witness statements that contradict what the individuals testified to at trial
  • Physical evidence, including items seized during a DUI stop, such as drug paraphernalia, bottles, etc.
  • Results of a blood alcohol test (BAC) that were contaminated or mishandled
  • Breaches in the chain of evidence for chemical tests
  • Available evidence in a criminal case, including fingerprints, photographs, recordings, videos, physical evidence, cell phone records, etc.

Blood test results can be extremely important when accused of driving under the influence instead of driving with a BAC level above the legal limit (.08% or higher). A low BAC level could favor the defendant because the prosecution needs to prevent evidence that convinces the jury members that the defendant’s ability to operate a motor vehicle was “impaired” by the alcohol. 

When Can I Bring a Brady Claim for My DUI Case in California?

Brady violations may be discovered after the trial of the case. The defendant must file a post-conviction motion asking the court to vacate the conviction based upon a Brady violation. However, some defense teams discover Brady violations during the trial. If so, they can file a motion with the court to decide the issue.

If the defense believes the prosecution is hiding evidence that would be disclosed under the Brady Rule, it can ask the court for an in camera examination of the evidence. That means the judge examines the evidence in private to decide whether the evidence is subject to the Brady Rule. 

In either case, Brady motions and hearings can be complicated court proceedings. You need an experienced California DUI defense lawyer to fight to ensure the prosecution follows the rules throughout the case. 

What Are the Outcomes of a Brady Rule Violation in a California DUI Case?

There are several potential outcomes of violating the Brady Rule. First, the judge could issue a mistrial if he discovers the prosecutor violated the Brady Rule during a trial. Second, the judge could rule that the suppressed evidence is not admissible in court. Third, the judge could dismiss the criminal charges for Brady violations. 

If the defendant has been convicted, the court could vacate or overturn the conviction. However, the court could also allow the conviction to stand, but punish the prosecution for violating the Brady Rule. California courts treat Brady violations seriously.

Defending DUI Charges in California Courts 

A California DUI defense lawyer investigates all aspects of your drunk driving charges from the DUI stop through the DUI arrest. Preparing for the trial involves requesting Brady materials and information. Then, the attorney carefully analyzes the evidence to determine how the evidence impacts your case.

However, defending a DUI charge involves much more than watching for violations of the Brady Rule. Prosecution and police misconduct can take many forms. A California DUI lawyer reviews the police actions to determine if they violated your civil rights. For example, did the police officers have reasonable suspicion to pull you over for drunk driving? Did the officers have probable cause for an arrest?

If law enforcement agents violated your civil rights, your attorney might file a motion to suppress evidence or dismiss the case. In addition to procedural errors and police misconduct, there are other defenses to DUI charges in California.

Other potential DUI defenses include, but are not limited to:

  • The alcohol continued to increase in your bloodstream after the police pulled you over, resulting in a high BAC
  • You have a medical condition that made you appear intoxicated or resulted in a false BAC level, such as diabetes, epilepsy, GERD, brain damage, or acid reflux
  • The breathalyzer machine was improperly calibrated or malfunctioned because of a defect or lack of maintenance
  • The police officers used non-standardized field sobriety tests or provided incorrect instructions for standardized FSTs
  • Environmental factors tainted the field sobriety tests
  • You were not driving the motor vehicle (i.e., you were asleep in your car)
  • Your blood sample fermented, resulting in inaccurate blood tests 

A drunk driving conviction can result in numerous penalties. You could be ordered to pay a high fine and serve time in jail or state prison. The judge may also suspend your driver’s license and order you to attend DUI school or a drug/alcohol treatment program. You could also have three to five years of summary probation.

The stakes are high when you face charges of driving under the influence. For that reason, it is best not to rely on advice from police officers or the prosecutor. They believe you are guilty and will use whatever you say against you.

Instead, it is best to remain silent except for asking for a criminal defense lawyer. Hiring a California DUI defense attorney gives you a better chance of beating the DUI charges or negotiating a favorable plea agreement. 

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