Phone records can be a crucial piece of evidence in a variety of types of litigation. A party may need to subpoena phone records in order to get an official copy. A party may also need to subpoena phone records if the provider is unwilling to release records absent a court order. The legal process used to subpoena phone records is to issue a subpoena duces tecum, often referred to as a third-party or non-party subpoena, to the provider of the phone service.
Phone records may be needed in a civil or criminal legal case. In a criminal case, phone records could substantiate an alibi for a defendant or prove a pre-existing relationship between a victim and a suspect for the prosecution. In a civil case, phone records may help establish that a conversation regarding terms of a contract, for instance, actually took place.
In order to subpoena phone records, the first step is to determine who is the custodian of the records. While this may seem easy, in some cases where the provider is a large company, it may be necessary to determine exactly who the subpoena must be addressed to and at what address. Large companies generally have a particular person or section designated for the receipt of subpoenas or other legal documents.
A subpoena must then be prepared. In some jurisdictions, an attorney may subpoena phone records without prior court approval, while, in others, the subpoena must be prepared and filed with the court for the judge's approval prior to issuance. The subpoena must be as specific as possible, as the recipient of the subpoena is not legally required to produce anything not listed in the subpoena. Common information found in a subpoena for phone records includes the name of the subscriber or customer and account number, telephone number, and the dates that are covered under the subpoena.
Once the subpoena has been prepared and approved, if required, the subpoena is then sent to the appropriate person or section at the phone company. A subpoena is a court order, meaning that the recipient is under a legal obligation to produce the records listed in the subpoena absent a valid reason not to. If the recipient of the subpoena feels that he or she has a valid objection to the order to produce the records, such as a confidentiality issue, then an objection must be filed with the court. Likewise, if the recipient is unable to comply with the subpoena because the records have been lost, stolen, or destroyed, or were never in the recipient's custody, then the recipient must inform the court.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Subpoena?
A subpoena is a formally written order that summons a witness to testify in court or at another legal action (like a Congressional hearing) or to produce evidence. A court or other government entity may use a subpoena as a legal tool to demand documents or other information from a person or business. It is necessary to comply with the subpoena, which can entail granting access to electronic communication like emails, messages, and phone records. Acting swiftly is necessary to protect oneself or one's company because failing to comply with a subpoena could result in serious legal consequences. It's important to keep in mind that a subpoena is a binding court-enforceable legal instrument.
How Do I Subpoena Phone Records?
You must first get a subpoena from a court or government body in order to subpoena phone records. The phone provider or any supplier of the records must receive the subpoena. The requested records will then be sent by the provider to the court or administrative authority. Depending on the type of records requested, the provider may require a court order or other legal document authorizing the release of the material.
What Types of Phone Records Can Be Subpoenaed?
In general, text messages, emails, and other electronic conversations can be subpoenaed along with phone records of any kind. Before disclosing the records, the provider may need a court order or other legal document approving the release of the information.
How Long Does It Take to Obtain Phone Records Through a Subpoena?
The type of records requested and the provider of the records will determine how long it will take to receive phone records through a subpoena. Typically, getting the records can take anything from a few days to several weeks or months.
Are Subpoenaed Phone Records Admissible in Court?
Phone records that have been subpoenaed are admissible in court. The records must, however, be verified in order to be accepted as legitimate. In order to establish that the records are what they claim to be, authentication frequently calls for the submission of additional evidence or the testimony of an informed witness.