What Is an Investigative Subpoena?

On Behalf of | Sep 20, 2017 | Criminal Defense |

In a perfect world, people who witness criminal activity would be able to report it without fear of retribution from the allegedly guilty party. Depending on the circumstances of the crime, though, witnesses are often reluctant to cooperate with the police because they believe it will put themselves or their families in danger. The inclination to stay out of criminal proceedings is natural when you are not the one facing charges; however, in the state of Michigan, prosecutors can essentially coerce witnesses to talk by using an investigative subpoena. Investigative subpoenas grant certain administrative agencies the authority to procure testimony by threatening individuals with certain penalties if they do not cooperate. If you are facing penalties after a prosecutor compelled witnesses to testify against you or you failed to abide by an investigative subpoena on behalf of someone else, contact Gordon & Hess, PLC. With 30 years of combined experience representing clients throughout west Michigan, our attorneys know how to examine a case from all angles in order to find the most strategic defense. Call 616-369-7452 to schedule a consultation with a Grand Rapids criminal lawyer. How Can a Prosecutor Compel a Witness to Testify? Under an investigative subpoena, a prosecutor can summon witnesses to a hearing. At this hearing, the witnesses must cooperate with the criminal proceedings and answer questions regarding the criminal charges or the incident in question. When witnesses refuse to abide by the requirements of the investigative subpoena, they face heavy fines or even jail time. Additionally, if they end up lying under oath, they could face perjury charges. What Are the Dangers of Coercing Witnesses to Talk? Michigan law has allowed prosecutors to pursue investigative subpoenas since 1995. Although this legal proceeding has been instrumental in solving dozens of homicide cases related to gang violence around the state, it poses some serious issues. For example, the prosecutor can be so intimidating—and the threat of going to jail for failing to cooperate can be so great—that the witness says whatever the prosecutor wants to hear. Ultimately, prosecutors need to use discretion when questioning witnesses following an investigative subpoena. There are checks and balances in place to prevent prosecutors from abusing this process; however, the opportunity to misuse their power during a line of questioning is ever present. If the witness is willing to say anything to end the proceedings, the prosecutor will be able to gather exactly what he or she needs to convict the defendant. According to M LIVE, defense attorneys unanimously opposed investigative subpoenas when the concept was first proposed in 1994. They recognized the potential for abuse and remain wary of the process to this day. If you are facing criminal charges in Michigan and you think prosecutors have been misusing investigative subpoenas to build the case against you, contact Gordon & Hess, PLC. A Grand Rapids criminal defense attorney from our firm will assess the circumstances of your arrest and help you determine the best way to proceed. Call 616-369-7452 to schedule a case evaluation.