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Brady Disclosures and Florida Criminal Cases


The rights of defendants in criminal cases have been part of United States law since the Bill of Rights was codified, but several Supreme Court decisions in the 1960s made the rules clearer about what constitutes a violation of a defendant’s rights.  In a Dick Tracy comic strip from the 1960s, the cartoon detective grumbled that now it is the police that are on trial, as if this were something bad, but in the real world, it is in the interest of justice that the burden of proof is on the state to show that it acted legally while the defendant acted illegally.  A famous Supreme Court decision from this era is Miranda v. Arizona, which gives its name to the Miranda warnings.  Pursuant to Miranda, police must notify defendants during an arrest that they have the right to avoid self-incrimination starting at the time of their arrest and that they have the right to representation by an attorney.  Thanks to the Miranda warnings, everyone who has ever watched a movie or drama series has heard the words, “You have the right to remain silent.”  The Brady disclosures, named after the 1963 Supreme Court decision Brady v. Maryland, are just as important.  Pursuant to Brady, prosecutors must reveal any evidence and information to the defendant, during the pre-trial discovery phase, that might help the defendant build defenses.  Here, our Miami criminal defense lawyer explains how Brady disclosures can help you fight your charges.

You Have the Right to Call a Snitch a Snitch

Defendants have always had the right to cross-examine witnesses summoned by the prosecution.  Brady also gives them the right to know if the prosecution witness has ulterior motives and, if so, to mention this fact in front of the jury.  For example, the prosecution must notify you if the witness received immunity from prosecution in exchange for testifying against you, or if the requirement to testify at your trial or grand jury indictment was part of a plea deal that the witness received.

You Have the Right to Compare Your Arrest Photo to the Description Given by the Witness

Arrest photos can also be a Brady disclosure.  You can request your arrest photo if a witness provided a description of you at your grand jury indictment or if the witness intends to provide a description of you at your trial.  Sometimes a discrepancy between what the witness saw and what the photo shows is enough to establish reasonable doubt about your guilt, especially if there are other inconsistencies in the prosecution’s case against you.

You Have the Right to Know the Whole Truth About What the Police Saw

During the pretrial discovery phrase of your case, you can and should request the full records the police have kept about your case.  They might not have told the whole story to prosecutors, and they might not be telling the whole story to you.  When you review the arrest report in detail or, if applicable, watch the bodycam footage, you might see details that the police have not mentioned to anyone, and these details might contradict what the prosecution is saying to the jury, thereby establishing doubt about your guilt.

You Have the Right to Know If the Officers Accusing You of a Crime Are Corrupt

One of the most highly publicized manifestations of Brady disclosures is the right of defendants to know about prior misconduct by police officers who worked on their case.  If the officer who arrested you has previously lied on the witness stand in order to convict other defendants, the police department knows this, even though they will not tell you unless you ask, and even then, they probably only tell you because Brady requires it.  If an officer gave false testimony about another defendant, it does not always mean that the officer is not telling the truth about you, but it can undermine the officer’s credibility in the eyes of the jury.

Remember that, in order to be acquitted at a criminal trial, you do not have to prove that you didn’t do it.  You must only persuade the jury that they cannot be sure that the prosecution’s story is completely true.  Plenty of cases have ended in acquittal because the jury thought that the defendant was no angel, but the police involved in the defendant’s case were even worse.

Contact Our Criminal Defense Attorneys

A South Florida criminal defense lawyer can help you exercise your rights during pretrial discovery so that you can have a fair trial.  Contact Ratzan & Faccidomo in Miami, Florida for a free, confidential consultation about your case.



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