Texas Criminal Subpoenas
What is a subpoena?
A subpoena is the legal term for a document which orders a person to come to Court. It can be used in criminal and civil cases. Usually a subpoena is directed at an individual person and orders them to testify during a Court case. A person may be ordered to testify by subpoena at trial, at a pre-trial hearing, or other Court proceeding. Subopoenas can also be directed at people or businesses. One type of subpoena is called a Subpoena Duces Tecum. This type of subpoena is to request documents, videos, evidence, etc… If a Subpoena Duces Tecum is requested, a person or company may avoid coming to Court by turning over the evidence to the person requesting the evidence.
A sample of a subpoena (out of Harris County in Houston, Texas) can be found by clicking this link here – Texas Criminal Subpoenas .
How can I subpoena people?
Since we’re specficially talking about criminal subpoenas in Texas, we have to look at the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, Article 24, which covers Subpoenas. The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure is the rule book which controls criminal cases in Texas. The State (through its prosecutors and other departments), Judges, defense attorneys, County and District Clerks are forced to follow these rules.
County Clerks and District Clerks are responsible for issuing subpoenas when requested by Prosecutors, defense attorneys, and defendants (if you represent yourself this is called pro se). If you click the link above, there is a form to fill out to subpoena someone.
Subpoenas must include some/all of the following:
- Specific person, people, or organization;
- on a specific date;
- in a specific Court;
- in any proceeding where the person/people will have to testify; and
- before a grand jury.
How can I subpoena records?
Getting access to records is where a subpoena duces tecum may be used. This is the legal term for ordering a person/people/organization to bring documents/evidence to court. For example, you want to request cell phone records from Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile, etc… If so, you need to fill out the subpoena form and send it to the keeper of records at those companies. Any time you want the Court to order someone to turn over documents or evidence, you need to serve that person with the subpoena duces tecum.
What do subpoenas do for my case?
Subpoenas are great tools for your criminal case, especially if you are looking for evidence that is favorable to you. Let’s say you’re accused of fighting with someone and you were later arrested in an area far away from where the fight occurred.
How would you try to prove that? Maybe you can request cell phone records from Verizon to show that you and your cell phone were far away from the scene of the crime. More importantly, subpoenas make sure you have witnesses at your trial. If witnesses are very important to your defense, a subpoena can order them to show up in Court and testify. If you know where your witnesses live and work, the police can go out and bring them to Court for you. If they don’t show up they can be fined by the Court between $100 and $500.
Lastly, subpoenas can also tip you and your lawyer off to the State’s strategy against you. The State is required to provide a list of people who it has subpoenaed. Depending on the case, you can see who is going to testify and make educated guesses about what those people will testify about. These are all parts of criminal discovery and case strategy.
Texas criminal subpoenas have a useful purpose during your case. The subpoenas should be specific and directed toward people who can help your case. It is very important to talk to you lawyer about strategy and to pick the best witnesses possible. In addition, you will want as many documents and as much useful evidence as possible to present your best defense.