Michael Morton Act Brings Big Changes in Criminal Discovery

The Michael Morton Act will apply to all criminal cases that are filed as of January 1st, 2014. It represents the first significant change in Article 39.14 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure in 44 years. Prior to the Act criminal discovery was very limited in Texas. Unless the prosecutors voluntarily turned it over criminal defense attorneys could not get police reports or witness statements until the testifying witness was passed for cross-examination.

The new law requires the prosecutors to turn over all witness statements of civilians and witness statements of police officers. This would cover all police reports and would include internal reports and notes that are not routinely included in paper work filed with the prosecutors office. The act does require that the defense attorney make a written request for these documents. One can be assured that all good criminal defense attorneys will file a discovery request when they make their first appearance in a criminal case.

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