Release of victim's private records to the defense in Texas
September 29, 2010 1:38 PM   Subscribe

In the state of Texas, who has the authority to release the victim of a crime's records to the defense?

Regarding a case of sexual assault in Texas, (both the victim and the defendent were minors at the time of the offense) who has the authority to release the victim's private records (things such as phone, email, texting, hopital, school, and therapy records) to the defense?
posted by xopaigexo to Law & Government (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The prosecuting attorneys are obligated to provide the defense with all the documents pertaining to a case; it's part of the discovery process.
posted by headspace at 1:51 PM on September 29, 2010

Specifically, Article 39.14 of Chapter 39 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure permits the defense to obtain "the inspection and copying or photographing by or on behalf of the defendant of any designated documents, papers, written statement of the defendant, (except written statements of witnesses and except the work product of counsel in the case and their investigators and their notes or report), books, accounts, letters, photographs, objects or tangible things not privileged, which constitute or contain evidence material to any matter involved in the action and which are in the possession, custody or control of the State or any of its agencies." The district attorney makes the records available to the defense, sometimes upon a judge's order, other times they have an "open file" policy which allows the defense to view the state's evidence. The defense can also, under the authority of the court, subpoena records that are not part of the state's evidence but are material to the case.
posted by *s at 2:12 PM on September 29, 2010

I would think the judge would have that authority in response to a defense petition. But surely defense counsel knows the answer to these questions. If not, you need a different counsel.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 2:21 PM on September 29, 2010

(Sorry, I didn't mean to imply that I thought the OP was the defendant in the case.)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 2:22 PM on September 29, 2010

headspace - you are confusing professional standards vs. what is legally required. In Texas, the defendant's right to discovery is very limited.

*S - has it right generally speaking.

Who has the authority to release "this information"? It depends on what "this information" means. If it's in the police report, for example, the defense counsel may gain access to it in a few ways:
1. open file policy - Prosecuting Office permits files to be inspected
2. discovery order - Trial Court Judge orders it be made available
3. rules of evidence - if the police officer uses it to refresh his recollection, the defense may look at it

A prosecutor may release more than just the police report in many cases to comply with Brady.

As for as other information - if it is not in the prosecution's possession - then the defendant has to subpoena it from the proper entity. That entity may have rules about disclosing such information.

In the end, it is usually up to a judge to order release of information.
posted by abdulf at 3:01 PM on September 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

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