Discovery in Los Angeles DUI
In defending any driving under the influence case, it is absolutely necessary to be able to access the evidence that the prosecution intends to use at trial. The prosecution is required to provide this evidence to the defense through what is known as the discovery process. Just like any other California criminal case, discovery is based on a defendant’s right to access all potential evidence against him or her as well as any exculpatory evidence that may exist. The United States Supreme Court requires that this material be provided to the defense prior to trial.
When a person is arraigned on a DUI charge, the defendant’s attorney is typically provided a copy of the criminal complaint and a “discovery packet.” This initial discovery usually only includes the incident reports prepared by the arresting officer as well as a copy of the defendant’s rap sheet or DMV driving record.DUI Discovery Material Can Include
There may be several other items of discovery that are available. Usually following the arraignment, the defendant’s attorney will review the material provided by the prosecution and will file an informal discovery request for additional items of discovery that are missing. In a DUI case, additional DUI discovery material can include patrol vehicle video recordings, body camera footage, 911 calls, police radio dispatch communications, chain of custody information for blood samples, calibration and maintenance records for Breathalyzer machines and preliminary alcohol screening (“PAS”) devices and any other records or evidence that may exist. This material will often be provided by the prosecutor as required by law. The defense may be required to pay for nominal expenses in the production of this discovery material.
When a blood test has been conducted in a DUI case, the defendant may request a “blood split” of the sample. This would allow part of the sample to be retested at an independent laboratory that can perform its own analysis.
In some situations, the prosecution may not comply with the defense’s informal discovery request. The prosecution may have difficulty in obtaining the requested evidence from the police agency or the prosecutor may simply refuse to comply. In these situations, the defense may be required to file a formal discovery motion with the Court. Typically, a discovery hearing will be conducted. If the prosecution is found to have failed to comply with formal discovery, the Court may issue sanctions, including suppression of the evidence and even dismissal of the underlying criminal charges.
In some cases, the defense may find it necessary to request the personnel records of the police officers involved in the case. In order to obtain these records, the defense would have to file what is known as a Pitchess motion. This motion occurs in the judge’s chambers and the judge will ultimately decide whether or not the police personnel file can be disclosed.
The reason behind allowing discovery in criminal cases is to prevent the defendant from being ambushed at trial with evidence that has not previously been disclosed. There may be instances where the prosecutor claims to have new evidence. When this occurs during trial, the defendant can challenge the admissibility of this evidence. There may be Brady violations, which refers to the landmark United States Supreme Court case that established the rules regarding pre-trial discovery. The judge may ultimately determine that the evidence is inadmissible and may sanction the prosecution for discovery violations.
Submitting a thorough discovery request is crucial in fighting any DUI case. It is important the prosecution is put on notice regarding what is being requested as soon as possible. The discovery material provided may be critical in building the defense’s case or challenging the arresting officer’s account. In many cases, the video evidence that is obtained may contradict what the officer wrote in his or her report. An effective Los Angeles DUI Attorney will cross-examine the officer regarding any inconsistency that may exist.
If you have been arrested for a DUI offense, it is critical that you consult with a Los Angeles DUI Attorney immediately. As a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience, Los Angeles DUI Attorney Michael Kraut knows how to effectively defend clients charged with DUI and understands how best to address potential discovery violations.
For more information about Los Angeles DUI discovery, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Los Angeles DUI Attorney Michael Kraut at the Kraut Law Group located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1520, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.