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Prosecution Entitled to Withhold the Date of Birth of Alleged Crime Victims

For nearly two decades, Arizona has recognized the Victims Bill of Rights. These rights, which have been embodied in the state constitution, afford a number of legal protections to individuals who are alleged to be victims of crime. Included among these rights is the right to have their personal information with held from the defendant and to refuse any discovery request. For example, when the prosecution lists the witnesses that it intends to call at trial, the defense is typically entitled to interview any person included on the list. If, however, a witness is an alleged victim, they can only be interviewed if that person consents to the interview request. It is worth noting that these legal rights attach the moment a person is formally charged with a crime, even though no finding of guilt has or will necessarily be made.

The prosecution removes addresses, Social Security numbers, and places of employment from reports that are made available to the defense. This information is specifically listed in rule 39 of the Arizona rules of criminal procedure which deals directly with the rights of crime victims. Although it is not specifically enumerated in rule 39, the victim's date of birth is also customarily deleted from police reports. In a recent published opinion, division one of the Arizona court of appeals held that the prosecution is indeed entitled to redact this information.

Particularly in those cases where the alleged victim is completely unknown to the accused, the unavailability of a date of birth can leave the defendant at a tremendous disadvantage. It is often necessary when defending against a criminal charge to challenge or impeach the credibility of the complaining witness or victim. One of the ways this can be accomplished is by introducing evidence related to prior crimes committed by the person or cross-examining them about prior acts that involved dishonesty or otherwise reflects negatively on their believability. Notwithstanding the prosecution's obligation to disclose evidence of prior convictions and the like, it can be incumbent on a criminal defense attorney to complete their own defense investigation into such matters. Without a date of birth, this can be a difficult process - especially in those cases where the alleged victim has a common name.