Last updated on June 1, 2020

Michigan Court Discusses Prosecution’s Obligation to Provide the Defense with Favorable Evidence

Earlier this year, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Michigan assault case involving the defendant’s claim that the prosecution violated his constitutional rights by withholding favorable evidence. The defendant also argued that the prosecution’s failure to present the evidence, the dashcam video of the arresting officers, should have resulted in an adverse inference instruction. Ultimately, the court concluded that the prosecution was not under a duty to preserve and pass the dashcam footage, and because of that, no adverse inference instruction was necessary.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant was arrested after he allegedly kidnapped and assaulted his girlfriend in his vehicle. The woman claimed that the defendant assaulted her with his fists, and pointed a gun at her before firing it out the window. While the defendant was stopped at a gas station to put air in his tires, his girlfriend ran inside the station, and the clerk called the police. Officers responded and arrested the defendant, finding blood and clumps of hair at the scene.

The defendant argued, among other things, that he should have been provided a copy of the officers’ dashcam footage. However, the prosecution explained that if any footage was taken, it would have been destroyed through the normal course of business because typically, footage is deleted after 30 days if it was not flagged for preservation. The defendant also argued that he was entitled to an adverse inference jury instruction, explaining that the footage, if preserved, would have been favorable to the defense.

The court held that the defendant’s rights were not violated based on the prosecution’s failure to provide him with a copy of the dashcam footage. The court acknowledged that the prosecution has a duty to pass exculpatory evidence to the defense. However, to trigger this duty, three elements must be met, “(1) the prosecution has suppressed evidence; (2) that is favorable to the accused; and (3) viewed in its totality, is material.”

Here, the court classified the dashcam footage as that which the defendant had a constitutional right of access, but did not trigger an affirmative obligation on the part of the prosecution to preserve and pass the evidence. The key, the court explained, was whether the police or prosecution acted in bad faith when destroying the evidence. Here, the court held that the defendant could not show that the police or prosecution acted in bad faith, noting that the normal procedure is to destroy all video that is not flagged for preservation. For this reason, the court also held that an adverse inference instruction as unnecessary.

Have You Been Arrested for a Michigan Crime?

If you have recently been arrested and charged with any type of serious Michigan crime, the dedicated defense attorney at Michigan Defense Law can help. We have extensive experience handling a wide range of cases, including Michigan assault crimes, drug offenses, and weapons crimes. We aggressively defend the rights of our clients, regardless of the charges they are facing. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation today, call 248-451-2220.

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