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Before the Trial

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Can I get documents from someone other than the defendant?

You might be able to get documents from someone who is not involved in the court case by getting a subpoena duces tecum. A subpoena duces tecum is issued by a judge or sometimes a lawyer can sign a subpoena, in certain states and circumstances. The subpoena tells a person, a company, or another entity to produce certain documents that are important to a court case. If you need to get a subpoena, you can talk to the court clerk about the process in your county.

Keep in mind, however, that if you do subpoena a witness to testify, you might have to pay him/her for the mileage it takes to appear at court. This could depend on the state or court that you are in. You may want to ask the court clerk if you have to pay for a subpoena or pay a subpoenaed witness to testify in your case. It is also possible that the person you have subpoenaed could ask the court to dismiss the subpoena by filing a “motion to quash” the subpoena. For example, a person can ask for a subpoena duces tecum to be quashed if:

  • it is overly burdensome (demands too many documents or is too hard to respond to);
  • there is not proper notice, like if a person receives a subpoena hours before trial and s/he does not have time to make arrangements to appear; or
  • it asks for protected information, like conversations between a lawyer and client, things that are said to a therapist, or, in some states, communication between a domestic violence advocate and a victim s/he is working with.