NC Criminal Charges: Can I See the Witness Statements?

Written by Thom Goolsby

Criminal Defense, Law

Dealing with an arrest in New Hanover is scary, and it’s hard to know what you can and cannot request so you can defend yourself. This is one of the many reasons to work with an experienced local attorney.

However, anyone facing criminal charges deserves to know who provided a witness statement and what was said. This is crucial information because discrepancies or mistakes can make all the difference in your case.

Fortunately, the Jencks Act outlines the Government’s duty to disclose witness statements. Essentially, under the Jencks Act, if the relevant motion is submitted, the government must disclose all of the witness statements in their possession at the time of the request.

If you were arrested and witness statements can help resolve your case favorably, Wilmington criminal lawyer Thom Goolsby can help. With more than 27 years of experience in and around New Hanover County, Attorney Thom Goolsby knows the court system, what it takes to get the necessary evidence to fight your charges, and how to achieve the best possible outcomes.

Free consultations are available 24/7 by calling (910) 763-3339, sending a text, or contact us online.

The Government’s Duty to Disclose Witness Statements

To compel the Government to disclose a witness’s statements, they must relate to the direct testimony of the witness. Under the Jencks Act, the Government has a duty to preserve all statements that are required to be produced. The Government should never destroy any statements before it is required to do so. Usually, this isn’t until after the conclusion of your case, including an appeal.

Applicability of the Jencks Act

The Jencks Act applies to:

  • Preliminary proceedings.
  • Trials.
  • Detention Hearings.
  • Suppression or Sentencing Hearings.

Filing a Motion for Witness Statements

You, as the defendant, are technically required to file a motion for discovery of a witness’s statements before the Government’s obligation to disclose such information arises. Therefore, the defendant should file his or her motion at the conclusion of the witness’s direct testimony.

If the defendant fails to raise the issue of producing witness statements in a timely manner, their request is deemed to be waived.

Types of Statements the Government Must Disclose

The Government must disclose any oral or written prior statement made by a witness that relates directly to the witness’s testimony. A statement may be more than a written statement signed by the witness.

A witness statement may include:

  • A verbatim recording or transcription of a witness’s oral statements.
  • Any witness statement taken or recorded in front of a Grand Jury.
  • Other statements, such as the Government’s notes of a witness interview.

Jencks Act: Some Issues of Concern

At this time, it is unclear whether the Government must disclose other notes, summaries, or reports made by the officers at the time an oral statement is made by a witness. This is important because depending on the circumstances and facts, these materials may qualify as statements themselves or influence the witness’s statement.

Work with an Attorney to Get Witness Statements

Reviewing witness statements in a criminal case is critical to resolving things favorably. Witnesses often misremember details, and highlighting flaws can result in reduced charges, a dismissal, or proving your innocence at trial. Let an experienced criminal defense attorney discuss your situation and help you achieve the best possible result.

If you are in legal trouble, contact the Goolsby Law Firm for a free consultation by calling (910) 763-3339.

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    Wilmington, North Carolina 28401

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