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Will a court ruling on evidence have wide impact on low-level cases? That’s in dispute.

The San Diego City Attorney’s Office violated the constitutional rights of a man who reportedly disobeyed the city’s overnight camp ban in 2019 by failing to provide evidence supporting the petition, a Supreme Court appeals panel has ruled. last month.

However, while the man’s lawyer, Matthew Hauser, said the ruling opened new avenues and now requires prosecutors to provide arrest information in minor cases, the city prosecutor said he did not intend to change its procedures.

The ruling could affect thousands of people in the city and county who are charged each year with offenses – lower-level offenses that are usually tolls, such as speeding or breaking local codes.

Such charges often carry fines and other penalties and almost never result in imprisonment. The city has argued that it is not required to provide evidence to support the allegations of infringement, as these are less serious low-level cases. In that decision, the panel of judges rejected this allegation.

In Houser’s case, the decision focused on prosecutors’ obligation to provide certain information, a process known as discovery. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a famous 1963 case of Brady v. Maryland that the failure to deliver the discovery violates the rights of individuals to a fair trial.

Several years ago, the city prosecutor Mara Elliot adopted a new policy that requires people accused of violations to receive information not from her office, but from the police service itself.

City attorneys do not prosecute offenses and do not have to do so under state law. No city attorney has appeared to prosecute the petitions for more than 20 years. Usually, when the cases are disputed, the police officer who issued it appears with whatever evidence accompanies the case.

Lawyer Colleen Cusack, who represents many clients in the infringement court, often pro bono, has been fighting against this policy for years. In Houser’s case, she argued that in order to find out, she had to issue a summons and pay about $ 25 for the files.

This process and cost is unfair, he argued, as individuals charged with more serious misdemeanor and felony crimes are uncovered without charge directly by prosecutors.

When he did not get all the files he was looking for in the Hauser case, he persuaded a San Diego Supreme Court Commissioner to issue a court order requiring the city to hand over the files. But the city did not fully comply with the order, according to case files.

After months of legal wrangling, a San Diego Supreme Court commissioner in August ruled that the city’s failure to deliver the discovery violated the rights set forth in Brady. On this basis, the commissioners dismissed the case.

A panel of three Supreme Court justices upheld the ruling following the city’s appeal. The commission said: “Essential evidence supports the conclusion that the city prosecutor did not make any effort to find out and disclose the materials that Brady demanded. As a result, Mr Houser’s federal constitutional rights under Brady have been violated in this case. “

Cusak said the decision is important and will apply to other infringements. “This decision tells the commissioners that they can dismiss cases of non-compliance with the discovery of infringements,” he said in an email. “It’s the first case in the country that does that. “

But Leslie Wolf Branscomb, Elliott’s spokeswoman, said the city did not see it that way and that the decision only applied to Houser’s case.

“The Houser decision is binding only in this case and does not require a change in the procedure,” she wrote in a statement. “A binding decision would come from the California Court of Appeals or the California Supreme Court.”

The San Diego District Attorney’s Office is also prosecuting out-of-town offenders. Spokesman Steve Walker said the office was still studying how the decision would be implemented.

“Historically, in the rare cases where our office receives requests for disclosure, we have not provided breach disclosures and we have referred those requests to the ticketing agency,” he wrote. “We are currently evaluating the Houser decision and its impact on our office.”

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Will a court ruling on evidence have wide impact on low-level cases? That’s in dispute. Source link Will a court ruling on evidence have wide impact on low-level cases? That’s in dispute.

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