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Fairfax District Court criminal discovery- Obtaining & working with it

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Fairfax District Court criminal discovery evidence- Virginia criminal lawyer addresses how to obtain it

Fairfax District Court (DC) criminal discovery evidence for a significant period of time has ordinarily involved the shortest turnaround between when I request and receive Virginia state court discovery. As a Fairfax criminal lawyer, I have the choice between reaching an agreement with the respective prosecutor’s office on obtaining discovery, or to proceed to a discovery hearing if we cannot reach an agreement. In Northern Virginia, I usually find the common approach of the particular prosecutor’s office for District Court discovery to be sufficient (often in effect including police reports, when those are not required in District Court discovery) without needing to schedule a hearing, except for Prince William, where the commonwealth’s attorney’s office declines to provide downloadable video discovery (versus only viewable online) without a court order. In Fairfax, the prosecutor’s office typically signs its agreement to court-approved discovery orders that add Brady /exculpatory evidence (see below about Brady) and video, film, photographic and audio evidence in the possession of the prosecution (which includes police). The standard General District Court and Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court discovery orders for this, my home county, are found respectively here and here.

When should my Virginia Criminal lawyer schedule a court hearing for obtaining a discovery order?

Two counties south of my Fairfax office, the prosecutors typically provide me District Court (for General District Court and and the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court) discovery to review on the date I schedule for a discovery hearing. Circuit Court — where the governing Virginia Supreme Court Rule 3A:11 provides for more expansive discovery than in the crabbed District Court discovery rule at Va. S. Ct. R. 7C:5 — is another matter, where in several jurisdictions I do need to schedule a discovery hearing either to spur the prosecutor to sign my proposed discovery order, or where the prosecutor will only agree to a discovery order that has unhelpful provisions that are not required by the discovery rule. In one Northern Virginia jurisdiction, the prosecutors have tended to provide me discovery in District Court without limiting whom I get to share it with, but then for Circuit Court felony cases only offer for me to sign a discovery order that institutes limitations on who gets to see the discovery. Therefore, I set a hearing to challenge those unnecessary provisions, and if the judge says that this is an order that was agreed upon by the prosecutor’s office and public defender’s office, I am ready to point out that any such agreement was reached without my input and cannot bind lawyers outside the public defender’s office, and I can tell the judge that I am withdrawing my discovery order request if those limiting restrictions are required, which would cover the discovery I have already received with no limitations (of course in consultation with my client). For Fairfax District Court and Fairfax Circuit Court, I have not needed to argue (versus schedule) a contested discovery hearing for awhile, but am always ready to have any contested hearing on any subject for any of my clients, including on any motion to compel the production of evidence that the prosecutor’s office either claims is not governed by the discovery order, applicable discovery rule or the Supreme Court’s Brady rule (Brady v. Md., 373 U.S. 83 (1963)), or based on the timing or any delay in providing me discovery evidence.

What is new about the timing for receiving Fairfax District Court discovery evidence

For a good amount of time until a few weeks ago, the county commonwealth’s attorney’s office commonly agreed for proposed Fairfax District Court discovery orders to list a deadline as early as ten days from the date of submitting the proposed order to that office to actually receive discovery. Now, the county prosecutor’s office generally only will sign a DC discovery order that lists a discovery deadline that is ten days before the trial or preliminary hearing date, with the understanding that discovery will often be provided before then. The Fairfax commonwealth’s attorney’s office has access to the data system that provides police reports and videos for the county police, but not with the data systems of the other law enforcement agencies that operate in the county.

What should my Virginia criminal lawyer do if discovery is provided late, incomplete or too narrow for the discovery and Brady / exculpatory evidence rule?

When a prosecutor does not meet the dictates of a Fairfax District Court discovery order, or any other discovery order as well as the Brady rule, your Virginia criminal lawyer can pursue such relief as moving the court to compel discovery, moving to exclude prosecutorial evidence that was not disclosed timely or otherwise in accordance with the discovery order and Brady, and moving for a trial date or preliminary hearing date continuance to make up for any late or incomplete provision of discovery.

Is evidence in my case only available through the discovery process?

The discovery process is only a part of your Virginia criminal lawyer’s obtaining evidence in your case, which will also involve investigation and interviews of witnesses conducted by your lawyer and his or her team. All of this discovery and evidence is essential intelligence that needs to be carefully reviewed, analyzed and synthesized by your criminal defense lawyer in pursuing your best defense.

Fairfax criminal lawyer Jonathan Katz relentlessly pursues your best defense against Virginia felony, misdemeanor and DUI prosecutions. Call 703-383-1100 for your free in-person confidential consultation with Jon Katz about your court-pending case.