What is a Brady Motion?
How do you legally define it?
What are the important elements you should know!
In this article, we will break down the legal definition of Brady Motion so you know all there is to know about it!
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Brady Motion Basics
A Brady Motion is a type of motion filed by a defendant in a case requesting evidence relating to a material witness that may be beneficial for its case.
The term “Brady” comes from the 1963 U.S. Supreme Court case Brady v. Maryland where the Supreme Court indicated that there is a violation of due process when the prosecutor suppresses evidence favorable to the defendant having requested it (Brady rule).
In light of the Brady case, prosecutors are required to disclose any evidence, material, or information available to them or in their possession allowing the defendant to prove his or her innocence by:
- Impeaching the credibility of the prosecutor’s witnesses
- Exculpate the accused in any other way
In the same vein, evidence that may help the accused get a reduced sentence should also be disclosed by the prosecutor.
When the defendant accused of a crime believes that the prosecution is withholding material evidence, it can file a Brady Motion to require them to disclose the evidence they may have.
For example, the defense attorney may file a motion to access:
- Video footage showing the defendant did not do the crime
- Police records showing that someone witnessed the crime and can identify the true identity of the criminal
- Material evidence bearing fingerprints
Following the filing of a “Brady Motion”, just like any other motions filed in court, there may be a hearing on the matter (Brady hearing) where the parties provide their legal positions and arguments to the court.
If the court believes that there is material evidence to be communicated, it may render an order requiring the prosecutor to disclose the evidence (Brady disclosure).
Alternatively, if the prosecutor does not contest the Brady Motion, it may provide the Brady disclosure without the need of holding a hearing and getting a court order.
Brady Motion definition
A Brady Motion is a motion or request filed by the defendant in a criminal case requesting that the prosecutor disclose or communicate evidence or information potentially favorable to the defendant’s case.
Said in a different way, the Brady Motion is part of a pretrial discovery requiring the prosecutor to share all exculpatory evidence to the defendant accused of a crime.
When to file a Brady Motion
The Brady Motion can be filed at any time during the legal proceedings.
Whenever the defense attorney has reasons to believe that the prosecutor has withheld information or evidence material for the defense, it can file a motion forcing the disclosure of such evidence.
The reason why this type of motion can be filed at any point in time during the criminal case and proceedings is that the prosecutor has an ongoing duty to disclose material evidence to the defendant.
As a result, the defendant may file its motion:
- During the pre-trial phase
- Right before the start of trial on merits
- At any point in time after the prosecutor’s opening statement
- After the parties’ closing arguments
- Even prior to the rendering of the sentence by the court
When the prosecutor fails to provide or disclose material evidence to the defendant further to a Brady Motion, the result is a Brady violation.
In other words, the defendant is deprived of accessing or obtaining favorable evidence allowing it to get a fair trial.
The prosecutor has an ongoing duty to disclose and turn over all evidence to the defendant even though the evidence may be exculpatory material.
As a result, throughout the entire criminal proceedings, the prosecutor is bound to disclose material evidence it may obtain that can potentially reverse the conviction, help dismiss the charges or lead to a mistrial.
Failure to observe this duty may lead to prosecutorial misconduct resulting in important consequences to the prosecutor.
What are some examples of evidence that can be obtained further to the filing of a Brady Motion?
The objective for filing a motion of type “Brady” is for a defendant accused of a crime to access all available evidence allowing it to obtain a fair trial and have the opportunity to prove his or her innocence.
In this context, when Brady Motions are filed, it’s common to see the defendant go after the following types of evidence:
- Video recordings
- Audio recordings
- Surveillance videos
- Material evidence
- DNA evidence
The nature of evidence disclosed must reasonably allow the defendant to prove that he or she did not commit the crime or allow the defense to impeach the credibility of the government’s witnesses.
So what is the legal definition of Brady Motion?
Let’s look at a summary of our findings.
If you enjoyed this article on Brady Motion, we recommend you look into the following legal terms and concepts. Enjoy!
Related legal terms
Admission on Motion
Adoption of Motions