In the American justice system, evidence is king. You cannot legally make any assertion unless you have some kind of evidence to back it up. However, there is a certain type of evidence found in criminal proceedings that can often be a major source of contention between defense and prosecutors, known as Brady material. But what is Brady material, and why is it so important to criminal cases?
The Origins of Brady Material
The term “Brady material” comes from the case Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963). In that case, a criminal defendant successfully overturned his conviction after discovering the prosecution had knowingly concealed evidence that would have proved his innocence. The court ruled that by failing to disclose this evidence to the defendant, they violated his constitutional right to due process, thus invalidating the conviction.
The Brady Doctrine
Since then, there have been numerous cases at both the state and federal level concerning prosecutors that withhold evidence from defendants. While these cases can get legally and factually complex, the essential issue remains the same: the Brady doctrine requires prosecutors to disclose any evidence that could be material to a criminal defendant’s defense, and it must be done prior to the case going to trial. In theory, this means that defendants are legally entitled to any evidence the prosecutors have (including documentation, recordings, and witness testimony) that could prove their innocence.
Why Getting Brady Material Can Be an Issue
The main reason that getting Brady material can be difficult is that it is held by prosecutors, who are responsible for building a case against criminal defendants. While in theory they should have an interest in preventing innocent people from being falsely convicted, there are plenty of prosecutors who are more interested in winning their case than seeing justice done. For this reason, many prosecutors will try to push for defendants to take plea deals, and hold back Brady material as long as possible to prevent defendants from seeing it.
Obtaining Brady Material For Your Case
Fighting against prosecutors who are withholding Brady material can be a struggle. They will delay disclosing evidence that hurts their case for as long as possible, and if you are not careful, you could wind up pleading to a crime simply because crucial evidence was withheld from you. That is why you need a lawyer with knowledge of criminal law, who can help you defend your rights in court and give you the best chance at a favorable outcome to your case.
If you or someone you know has been arrested for a criminal offense, you will need legal counsel to help you preserve your rights and work to get the best possible outcome for your matter. A New York criminal defense lawyer, who is experienced in handling criminal cases of all sorts, can advise you of your legal rights and will fight for your best interests in court. If you or your loved one has been arrested, contact the Suffolk County criminal defense attorneys at McGuire, Peláez and Bennett at (631) 348-1702.