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Do prosecutors have to disclose evidence to defendants?

On Behalf of | Apr 15, 2022 | Blog, Criminal Defense |

Prosecutors across the Lone Star State have a keen interest in securing criminal convictions. Consequently, if you are facing serious criminal charges, you can expect a prosecutor to try to hold you accountable. This is true regardless of whether you are actually innocent or guilty.

When investigating criminal activity, police officers often gather extensive evidence. While some of this evidence may link you to a crime, other pieces of evidence may prove your innocence. Because prosecutors have access to all available information, you may wonder if they have to tell you what they have against you.

Material evidence

According to Section 39.14(a) of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, prosecutors must disclose any evidence that is material to the matter. When it comes to determining whether a piece of evidence is material, you can replace the word, “material,” with “relevant.” Therefore, you should expect the prosecutor to tell you about anything that is relevant to your case.

Exculpatory evidence

There are two major types of evidence in any criminal case: exculpatory and inculpatory. Exculpatory evidence is evidence that tends to prove your innocence, while inculpatory evidence proves your guilt. Prosecutors typically should inform you of both types of evidence.

It can be tempting for prosecutors to withhold exculpatory evidence, as they often do not want defendants to use it to their advantage. Doing so is extremely dangerous for prosecutors, though. After all, if prosecutors withhold something exculpatory, you may be able to have your conviction overturned on appeal.

Ultimately, before negotiating a plea deal or going to trial, it is critical to know exactly what prosecutors have and do not have to use against you.