Brief Fact Summary. Public defenders came into possession of a rifle barrel which their client was alleged to have used during a murder and are now appealing various obstruction charges relating to their failure to relinquish it to the prosecution.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Defendants and their counsel must relinquish all incriminating physical evidence to the prosecution before trial. Withholding such evidence constitutes an obstruction of justice.
A statute which either forbids or requires the doing of an act in terms so vague that men of common intelligence must necessarily guess at its meaning and differ as to its application violates due process of law.View Full Point of Law
Must defense counsel provide the prosecution with incriminating physical evidence?
Was the statute under which the Defendants were convicted unconstitutionally vague or overbroad?
Yes. Incriminating physical evidence is not protected by any privilege, and defense counsel has a duty to deliver it to the prosecution immediately after a reasonable time for examination.
Yes. These statutes do not provide enough notice for what might constitute a crime in these kinds of circumstances. Effective criminal statutes must clearly proscribe certain types of behavior. Reversed, sentence vacated.
Discussion. Although most jurisdictions have adopted a similar rule, this area of criminal law is still somewhat confusing.