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Subpoena or Not Subpoena the Officer?

Posted Friday, June 16, 2017 by Andrew Charles Huff

In my years of fighting traffic tickets, the most frequent question I am asked is, “Are you going to subpoena the officer to appear in court?” The reason is of course is that if the officer fails to appear at the hearing, the ticket is dismissed by default. While this is true, I’ve found that more and more police departments are making it a priority to ensure officers appear at traffic hearing when under subpoena. In fact, in speaking with various officers they have told me appearing at traffic hearings now takes priority over regular duty and they must provide an explanation to superiors if they do not appear in court.

So whether under subpoena or not, the court rules allow the judge hearing the case to read the officers written report and consider all other documents provided in the case so the officer does not have to appear. Infraction rule 3.3(c) authorizes the court to consider these documents in lieu of the officer’s appearance unless they are under subpoena.

However, the high majority of the time, we are able to find problems with the officer’s report or other evidence presented in the case that normally lead to a favorable resolution. Having the officer personally appear and provide additional testimony can ruin those chances and therefore we normally do not want the officer to appear in court.

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