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Internal Affairs Reports Available to Maryland Criminal Defendant; 2 Prong Test Discussed

Maryland’s Special Court of Appeals has held that a criminal defendant is entitled to disclosure of a detective’s Internal Affairs Division (IAD) filed, but held the Court must review that file to determine what must be disclosed.

The defendant was arrested on drug charges and sought the IAD file of Baltimore City detective Michael Dressel, alleging he had been dishonest in an unrelated matter and the material was necessary for cross examination at trial. The trial court ordered disclosure without holding in camera proceedings.

The Court of Appeals held that under Maryland’s Public Information Act, the IAD file was entitled to confidentiality as a “personnel record.” Such records, however, “are not immune from disclosure to a defendant in a criminal trial.”

The trial court was required, nonetheless, to determine which IAD records were subject to disclosure. Documents claiming to be privileged remain “presumptively privileged even from in camera inspection.” “The Burden is on the party seeking production to make a preliminary showing that the communications or documents may not be privileged or, in those cases where a weighing approach is appropriate, that there is some necessity for production.”

If that initial burden is met, the court “should order an in camera inspection. Depending upon the issues and circumstances, the in camera inspection may be utilized to determine whether the material is privileged, to sever privileged from non-privileged material is severability is feasible, and to weigh the governments need for confidentiality against the litigant’s need for production.” In a criminal case, the court must strike a balance between privacy and the defendant’s right to a fair trial.

The matter was remanded for in camera proceedings to apply this two prong test. See: Baltimore City Police Department v. Maryland, 158 Md. App. 274; 857 A. 2d 148; (2004).

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Related legal case

Baltimore City Police Department v. Maryland