Los Angeles Subpoenas Lawyer

Criminal Subpoenas in California: What You Need to Know

When it comes to a criminal trial, there is usually a massive disparity between the resources of the defendant and the resources of the prosecution. The state has millions of dollars, teams of attorneys and investigators and significant leverage, in many cases, over witnesses.

Defendants often have none of those things. They may have little money, minimal access to investigators or trial specialists and limited ability to convince others to testify on their behalf.

The law recognizes this imbalance and takes steps to remedy it. Defendants who can’t afford a private attorney are provided with a public defender. Defendants are also granted the power of the subpoena to help compel witnesses to testify or provide relevant evidence.

Let’s take a closer look at how subpoenas work, and situations where they may apply.

Understanding Subpoenas

There are two basic subpoena types: One that requires a court appearance and another (the “subpoena duces tecum”) that compels a person to turn over records, documents or other forms of evidence to the court. In order for a subpoena to be legally binding, it must be delivered to the target in person, a process usually undertaken by someone called a “process server.”

Once the subpoena has been delivered, the recipient is legally bound to appear in court or turn over the requested materials. Should the subpoena target fail to do so, they may be held in contempt and jailed or fined. A judge may issue an arrest warrant in the name of the person who failed to appear after receiving a subpoena.

While subpoenas are often used in cases where witnesses may be hostile or reluctant, they also have a much broader application. Even if witnesses are friendly, a subpoena can help ensure that they appear, while also providing employers with the documentation necessary for an excused day off. For these reasons, subpoenas are broadly issued to witnesses, regardless of status.

In cases where potential witnesses may be unwilling to supply defendants with private records, the issuance of a subpoena duces tecum can facilitate access to those materials. One example: Security camera footage or cell phone records that exonerate a defendant can be acquired via subpoena, even if those records belong to a third party.

It is possible, however, to contest a subpoena duces tecum. The target of the subpoena may initiate legal action in an effort to avoid turning over the materials. In such cases, it falls to a judge to determine whether the materials are relevant and admissible. A judge may choose to grant or deny a motion to dismiss a subpoena duces tecum.

If the materials are in fact turned over, the defense must disclose their presence to the prosecution during the pre-trial discovery phase — assuming the defense intends to use the evidence.

Finding the Right Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney

At the Goldstein Law Group, we have the necessary experience to handle even the most complex and challenging criminal cases. If you are the recipient of a subpoena you’d like to contest — or you’re facing the possibility of a criminal trial — we urge you to call our office today for a consultation.