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When Do New York Prosecutors Have to Share Evidence With the Defense?

Posted on in Criminal Defense

New York City Criminal Defense Law Firm

In the past, the New York district attorneys who prosecute criminal cases have been able to withhold crucial evidence from defendants until just before a trial. This practice has heavily biased the criminal justice system against those accused of a crime. Only two percent of felony convictions happen in a trial; 98 percent of convictions are obtained through plea bargains. In other words, defendants could be forced to negotiate a plea bargain or prepare for trial without seeing all of the state’s evidence against them. This practice has led to New York being third in the nation in wrongful convictions.

Earlier Pretrial Discovery Benefits NYC Criminal Defense

In response to this unfairness, the New York legislature has enacted reforms that will go into effect statewide in January 2020. Prosecutors will now be required to complete pretrial discovery—the sharing of the state’s evidence—much sooner. Specific reforms include:

  • Defense attorneys no longer need to file requests for discovery.

  • Prosecutors must release their evidence to the defense team within 15 days of an indictment.

  • Prosecutors must release comprehensive information including police reports, the names and statements of witnesses identified by the police or district attorney’s office, and grand jury testimony. If witness intimidation is a legitimate concern, prosecutors may petition the court to conceal witness names.

  • When a plea deal is offered to a person charged with a felony, prosecutors must now release pretrial discovery materials at least three days before the deadline to accept the plea deal.

The importance of allowing a defendant and their attorney to see all of the prosecution’s evidence cannot be understated. For example, a study conducted by a Virginia law professor found that “half of the death-row inmates exonerated by DNA evidence had falsely confessed to the crime in question.”

These changes to New York law were enacted in April 2019 as part of a broad package of reforms to the state’s criminal justice practices. Another important reform was to eliminate cash bail for most people accused of a misdemeanor or nonviolent felony crime. Those in favor of eliminating cash bail believe it will ease jail overcrowding in New York City and ease the burden on lower-income people who often languish in jail simply because they cannot come up with a few hundred dollars for bail.

An Aggressive Manhattan Criminal Defense Attorney

Discovery and investigation are crucial to your defense, and the elite New York City criminal defense lawyers at Watford Jackson, PLLC know exactly how to marshal evidence into a successful defense strategy. Call us at 855-WAT-JACK or 855-928-5225.

Sources:

https://www.themarshallproject.org/2019/04/01/blindfold-off-new-york-overhauls-pretrial-evidence-rules

https://www.legalaidnyc.org/news/2019/4/1/new-york-state-enacts-comprehensive-criminal-discovery-reform

https://abovethelaw.com/2019/04/new-york-revamps-discovery-laws-to-make-them-less-awful/

https://www.silive.com/news/2019/04/ny-criminal-justice-reforms-good-bad-and-disgraceful-commentary.html

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