New California Law Makes It A Felony For Prosecutors To Withhold Evidence In Criminal Cases

Although it happens in some cases, I was surprised to learn that it was not a felony crime for prosecutors to withhold evidence in criminal trials. That has changed in 2017.
California Penal Code § 141 (Amended): A Prosecutor Withholding Exculpatory Evidence: Addition of new subdivision (c) provides that “(a) prosecuting attorney who intentionally and in bad faith alters, modifies, or withholds any physical matter, digital image, video recording, or relevant exculpatory material or information, knowing that it is relevant and material to the outcome of the case, with the specific intent that the physical matter, digital image, video recording, or relevant exculpatory material or information will be concealed or destroyed, or fraudulently represented as the original evidence upon a trial, proceeding, or inquiry, is guilty of a felony . . . .”
Punishment: Felony; 16 months, 2 or 3 years in prison or county jail pursuant to P.C. § 1170(h).

Courts have always found that withholding of evidence is grounds for reversal of a conviction or other court- imposed sanctions against the prosecution (See Brady v. Maryland (1963) 373 U.S. 83; generically referred to as a “Brady Violation.), a prosecutor intentionally withholding exculpatory evidence is now a felony offense. Peace officers doing the same (per subd. (b)) is already a felony offense, but with a greater punishment; 2, 3 or 5 years in prison. For anyone else, the offense is a misdemeanor (subd. (a)).

About thetorranceattorney

Matthew Ruff is a Torrance criminal defense attorney located near the 405 freeway on Crenshaw Blvd. Focusing on DUI and serious criminal cases for over twenty years. In addition to criminal cases, Matthew also defends clients at the DMV.
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