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Criminal charge defense remains frustrated by elusive "Blue Book"

When someone is charged with a federal crime in Virginia, the burden of proof resides with government prosecutors. During discovery, prosecutors are required to present certain information to the defense that describes the basis of the prosecution's case in order to try the criminal charge. One document created is called the "Blue Book," which is a document that the government creates detailing the information prosecutors are required to give to the defense team.

Recently, an appeals court upheld that federal prosecutors are not required to disclose the information in the Blue Book to the defense. In a trial, there are certain types of protected documents that are deemed "work product," such as trial strategies and theories. Prosecutors are not required to give the information in these documents to the defense. The case brought about by The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers argued that the information in the Blue Book was subject to the Freedom of Information Act and could thus be made public by request. 

In its decision, the appeals court cited a 1992 case in which a D.C. circuit court held that the National Labor Relations Board was not required to disclose certain documents that provided advice to its lawyers on litigation strategy. However, for some, this court decision and the current Blue Book decision are two separate issues. Regardless, the court determined that the information in the Blue Book was an attorney work-product and should be covered by the exemption.

Regardless of this current decision regarding the Blue Book, those facing a federal criminal charge in Virginia could be best served by selecting legal representation from a criminal defense attorney. Attorneys who are experienced in this area of law can best serve their clients by understanding the rules regarding discovery. By using all legal channels to reveal the information that the prosecution has available, an attorney will be able to mount the best defense possible.

Source: Bloomberg, "Government Playbook for Prosecutors Should Be Public", Noah Feldman, Accessed on Oct. 5, 2016

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