There is a danger of so-called “Brady violations” when the juvenile case is treated informally and/or the child does not have an attorney who understands the applicable juvenile court rules and laws. The term “Brady violation” refers to the ruling in Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963). It requires that the prosecuting attorney turn over any favorable evidence, upon request, to the defendant “where the evidence is material either to guilt or punishment.” A December 29, 2013, Los Angeles Times editorial, Don’t Ignore the Brady Rule: Evidence Must be Shared, warns of an epidemic of Brady violations in criminal courts resulting in successful appeals and cases being sent back to the trial court for retrials.
In a juvenile delinquency case, the law of discovery for criminal cases applies. I.C. 31-32-10-1. Thus, if the child or the child’s attorney files a motion for discovery, the State is required to turn over any qualifying Brady evidence. If no discovery is requested, the prosecuting attorney may not reveal any evidence that is favorable to the defense, and arguably is not required to supply the information. Some examples of Brady evidence drawn from past criminal cases are: (1) information that someone else has confessed to committing the delinquent act or (2) the analysis of fingerprints was inconclusive or matched someone else.
Without knowledge of the evidence, the child or defendant would analyze the likely success or failure at factfinding hearing or trial differently. The child may forego a factfinding hearing completely rather than force the State to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt, or choose not to pursue a motion to suppress evidence based on the lack of discovery information.