Prosecutorial Misconduct

Prosecutorial misconduct occurs when the prosecutor fails in their duties while prosecuting a case. In the State of California, people are charged with crimes by a prosecutor that works at:

  • the local or city level (City or Municipal Attorney);
  • the county level (District Attorney);
  • the state level (Attorney General); or
  • the federal level (United States Attorney’s Office).

Allegations of prosecutorial misconduct might be raised before trial in a motion to dismiss, after trial in a motion for a new trial, after sentencing in a direct appeal, or after the conviction in motions for post-conviction relief.

Attorney for Prosecutorial Misconduct in California

If your case involved prosecutorial misconduct, then seek out the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney. At Jay Leiderman Law, we help innocent clients subjected to a wrongful conviction.

Act quickly because different avenues of attacking the case after strict deadlines. As time passes, so do the available options for obtaining relief.

Call (805) 654-0200.

Prosecutors in the District Attorney’s Office

California Government Code Section 26500 designates the district attorney’s primary duty as investigating and prosecuting criminal offenses on behalf of the people of the State of California.

District attorneys prosecutor both misdemeanors and felonies before the state’s trial courts. Prosecutors enjoy great discretion in deciding which cases to prosecute and how to conduct the prosecutions. The district attorney in each county has the responsibility of hiring its staff to provide data, personnel, and budget services.

Ethical Duties of Prosecutors in California

Prosecutor are required to abide by a strict code of ethics. While carrying out all official duties, the prosecutor must always strive to discover the truth. The primary role of the prosecutor is to “investigate and prosecute impartially” criminal suspects.

Prosecutors should use only “legitimate investigative techniques” to ensure that “guilt shall not escape or innocence suffer.” (Berger v. United States (1935) 295 U.S. 78, 88.) Additionally, prosecutors are bound by the California’s Business and Professions Code in section 6068 (a)-(d). Those statutory regulations impose the duty of:

  • never seeking to mislead a judge or judicial officer;
  • using only such means as are consistent with the truth;
  • maintaining only such actions as appear to be legal or just;
  • respecting courts of justice and judicial officers; and
  • upholding the federal and state constitutions and laws.

Misconduct for Violations of the Prosecutor’s Brady Obligation

The most common allegations of prosecutorial misconduct involve violations of the prosecutor’s Brady obligations. In a criminal case, the defendant is presumed innocent. The prosecution has the burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty.

To ensure a fair trial, the prosecuting attorney has a constitutional and statutory duty to disclose specified information to the defendant, included exculpatory and potential exculpatory evidence.

In Brady v. Maryland (1963) 373 U.S. 83, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment is violated when a prosecutor in a criminal case withholds material evidence from the defense when that evidence is favorable to the accused.

In Giglio v. United States (1972) 405 U.S. 150, the Supreme Court prohibited the prosecutor from presenting false or untruthful testimony.

As a result of these cases, the law is clear that the prosecutor has an ongoing duty to disclose to the defendant material evidence that would be favorable to the accused.

In California v. Trombetta (1984) 467 U.S. 479, 485 (citation omitted), the U.S. Supreme Court explained:

Under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, criminal prosecutions must comport with prevailing notions of fundamental fairness. We have long interpreted this standard of fairness to require that criminal defendants be afforded a meaningful opportunity to present a complete defense.

To safeguard that right, the Court has developed “what might loosely be called the area of constitutionally guaranteed access to evidence.” Taken together, this group of constitutional privileges delivers exculpatory evidence into the hands of the accused, thereby protecting the innocent from erroneous conviction and ensuring the integrity of our criminal justice system.

Even without a specific request, the prosecution has a constitutional duty to turn over exculpatory evidence when that evidence would raise a reasonable doubt about the defendant’s guilt. (United States v. Agurs (1996) 427 U.S. 97, 112.)

Although a specific request is not necessary for the defense to receive Brady material, an informal discovery request must be made before a party can request formal court enforcement of discovery.