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SOAH, ALR, and Serving Subpoenas on Officers in Collin County & Dallas County

In an ALR hearing, it is the job of the Respondent (Defendant) to serve a subpoena on a police officer if they want them to appear.  I do this in almost all of my cases.

In order to serve a subpoena, one must first request it from the judge.  You then deliver the subpoena to a process server who must find the officer and give it to them.

Many officers purposely "hide" or "duck" service, in order to not have to show up to the hearings.  I will let you decide for yourself if you think that is ethical.  Or part of the makings of a good officer you want on the street.

I had an opportunity to discuss the problems with subpoena service with the SOAH judge today.  Somehow I became the lead official for defense attorneys and process servers.  I’m not really sure how that happened.

This all arose because of judges telling us that personal service was needed, even if the department allows service on a subpoena coordinator to sign for the subpoenas.

As a general premise, a department having a subpoena coordinator is a great idea for both sides.  The police benefit from not being bothered off duty, or on duty for that matter, while they are trying to work.  Process servers benefit from time saved trying to hunt someone down.

In the recent past, one of the judges told me that, if we had a letter on file from the department, saying they have a policy of allowing service to a coordinator, they would accept the the subpoena if served on a subpoena coordinator.

So I wrote out a nice form letter, and presented it to several agencies. None would sign. They thought it was a "defense attorney trick," I guess. We explained that if they sign this, we will not need to hunt down officers on duty or on their days off. Apparently they did not care.

So then comes today. Before the hearings, I asked to speak with the judge and the Department (DPS attorney) regarding what is needed for service to be accepted as valid.

My question today was this — To the Judge — "Flat out, if we do not have a letter from the department saying they will accept service through a subpoena coordinator, you are telling me that I need to have personal service." Answer: "Yes."

"And you realize the result of this will be process servers tracking down officers on their days off, on duty while working, at home, picking up their kids, etc… this is what will happen, right?" Answer: "Unless we have something in writing, we will not accept the subpoena as served. The departments will have to change their mind about signing a letter of their policy if they don’t like that"

Question to the DPS (prosecutor) – "And you are telling me that if we do not have a letter from the department on file saying we they will accept service by a subpoena coordinator — even if you know this is their policy — and we subpoena the officer and it is signed by a subpoena coordinator, you will not dismiss the case?" Answer: "Yes, that is correct."

I was told on several occasions that some defense attorneys will lie, and so will process servers.  SEVERAL times.  Yet, I was not included, nor my process servers, so I don’t really see how that matters.

So the result is this. If you subpoena an officer in Collin County or Dallas County, and you want DPS or SOAH to recognize it as served, IT MUST BE SERVED THROUGH PERSONAL SERVICE.

PS. If anyone wants to become a judge, the position is open — http://www.soah.state.tx.us/HumanResources/employment_opportunities.htm — 66K/year.