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Legally Reviewed by:

Jonathan Rosenfeld
J.D

January 16, 2023

Over $400 Million worth of case results

Awarded The Best Lawyer in 2024 by U.S. News

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Subpoenaing cell phone records is a legal process to gather information from carriers or service providers. It can be done for various reasons, such as discovering evidence in criminal cases, finding witnesses, or gathering intelligence.

While the subpoena process offers numerous advantages to law enforcement and government agencies, it also raises serious privacy concerns.

Carriers must often provide detailed customer information, including call logs and text messages, which can be highly intrusive and potentially violate federal law protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.

subpoena for cell phone records after accident

After an accident, it may be necessary to subpoena cell phone records.

What is a Subpoena?

A subpoena duces tecum, Latin for “you shall bring with you,” is an essential legal tool in court cases. A court order requires one or both parties to produce information relevant to the proceedings.

Subpoena laws vary slightly from state to state, so you must contact an experienced car accident lawyer if unsure of your state’s guidelines.

The three kinds of subpoenas include the following:

  • Personal appearances
  • Production of specific information
  • Deposition subpoenas to produce business records

A subpoena can be served through an acceptable service method such as personal service, mail, or fax/email.

After the subpoena has been served, a proof of service form must be filed with the court following the law.

Once the requested documents have been received from the phone company, they should be reviewed to ensure all requested information was provided.

Generally, if the documents requested are not provided, a follow-up with the phone company should be done.

Probable Cause and the Fourth Amendment

The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects citizens from unreasonable search and seizure.

The amendment ensures that law enforcement officers have probable cause to search a person’s property, including their cell phone.

Probable cause is a reasonable belief that evidence of a crime may be found on the premises.

For an officer to legally search a person’s cell phone, they must prove it is very likely that evidence is present on the device.

The court will most likely dismiss the evidence if an attorney uses evidence obtained from a cell phone search without probable cause and a warrant, except under unique circumstances.

Unveiling the Truth: Subpoena Cell Phone Records to Prove Distracted Driving

One of the most critical responsibilities of a personal injury attorney is to meticulously gather and analyze evidence that supports their client’s case.

In many road accidents, a distraction from cell phone usage emerges as a prevalent cause.

Therefore, subpoenaing cell phone records becomes essential to building a convincing case, as they can provide irrefutable proof of a driver’s distractions at the time of the accident.

Let’s explore the reasons why a personal injury attorney would subpoena cell phone records in an accident case:

  • Proof of Distracted Driving: The most direct reason to subpoena cell phone records is to prove that the other driver was actively using their cell phone at the time of the crash. Phone usage records can demonstrate if a driver was engaged in a call, texting, browsing, or using social media, which can significantly impair driving abilities.
  • Establishing a Timeline: Cell phone records can help establish a precise timeline of the driver’s activities leading up to the accident. This timeline can be cross-referenced with eyewitness testimonies or other evidence to build a solid case.
  • Corroborating or Refuting Statements: Cell phone records can be used to corroborate or refute the statements made by the involved parties or witnesses. For instance, cell phone records can confirm or challenge their statement if a driver claims they weren’t using their phone during the accident.
  • Showing a Pattern of Negligent Behavior: Cell phone records show consistent use of a phone while driving can demonstrate a pattern of negligent or reckless behavior, reinforcing the argument that the driver posed a danger on the road.
  • Enhancing Credibility of Other Evidence: If other evidence, such as camera footage or vehicle data, suggests distracted driving, cell phone records can be used to support these claims, enhancing the credibility and overall strength of the case.

Taking the step to subpoena cell phone records can present a more substantial case to prove the other party’s negligence, increasing the chances of a favorable outcome for their client.

Consulting a reputable lawyer is the best way to discuss the case and identify the rights to subpoena cell phone records. Proving fault using cell phone records can be especially beneficial when negotiating a settlement to resolve a civil claim or lawsuit.

It is also essential to know what companies to contact and their subpoena process and complete a blank subpoena form.

Cell carriers regularly purge customer records, with the length of time depending on the company.

It means it is vital to act quickly to subpoena cell phone records.

What Cell Phone Records Reveal

Cell phone records are a powerful tool for tracking an individual’s movements and activities. They can show the caller’s phone number, duration, time of call, and location.

Text messages sent from phones can be retrieved, but encrypted messages like iMessage and WhatsApp cannot.

Smartphones transmit data to cell towers even when unused, which can be misconstrued as active users.

This data can be used to determine if a user was actively engaged with their phone during an incident or if they were where they said they were during an incident.

Experts may use cellphone data in many ways regarding a particular legal incident. Cell phone service providers can access incoming and outgoing calls, text messages, email usage, internet usage, and locations.

Advertisers also use search history to inform their marketing strategies.

Due to the expansive prevalence of cell phones in today’s society, court cases have been brought up regarding privacy issues. Individuals must understand how their data is used and how to protect it.

Cellular Telephone Subpoena Information Guide

Taking the step to subpoena cell phone records is essential for law enforcement and other government agencies to obtain evidence in criminal investigations.

The Cellular Telephone Subpoena Guide provides information on contacting major cell phone carriers to obtain records of phone calls upon request.

AT&T Wireless, T-Mobile, Verizon VSAT, and Dish Wireless have their own subpoena compliance centers that can be contacted with valid reasons.

Cell carriers regularly purge records after a specific time, depending on the company.

Therefore, investigators must quickly subpoena cell phone records to ensure the requested documents remain available.

Cell Phone Privacy: Can Phone Records Be Subpoenaed Without My Knowledge?

Phone records can be subpoenaed without the knowledge of the person whose records are being requested.

In these cases, the defendant whose phone records are being subpoenaed must be notified, and a judge will decide if the information is relevant to the case.

Take precautions to prevent your smartphone records from being subpoenaed without your knowledge.

Use secure messaging platforms when communicating with others, update your passwords regularly, and keep your phone in your possession.

Additionally, you should consult an experienced attorney who can advise you on protecting yourself from having your phone records subpoenaed without your knowledge.

Can an Attorney Subpoena Deleted Text Messages?

During the proceedings, a lawyer may need to subpoena deleted text messages because the content of a text message cannot be subpoenaed directly.

However, if a spouse deletes a text from their phone, the communication record can still be subpoenaed.

Serving a subpoena as early as possible is essential to prevent any information from being lost forever.

The Danger of Search Results in Civil and Criminal Cases

Using search results on a cell phone as evidence in a civil and criminal case has become increasingly common.

Attorneys may use incriminating search results to damage claims, making it essential for individuals to be aware of the potential consequences of their online activities and money transactions.

Courts will usually dismiss searches that occurred long ago, but recent searches can still be used as evidence.

Cell phone search results can also be used as evidence in civil and criminal cases, even if they are not directly related to the case at hand.

Social media has become a source of information and potential evidence for attorneys, so individuals must be mindful of what they post online.

Despite potential privacy concerns, attorneys may use cell phone search results as evidence.

Individuals need to understand the implications of their online activities and how they could potentially address any future legal proceedings.

Necessary Steps to Subpoena Phone Records

Consulting with a lawyer is the first step to determine if a subpoena of phone records is necessary and what the cause for seeking it may be.

The lawyer will also help identify which companies must be contacted and their subpoena process.

Once a judge approves, the next step is to complete a blank subpoena form and serve it to your spouse.

Cell phone records are often used in government prosecutions, so providing a valid reason for requesting them is crucial.

Cell carriers regularly purge customer records from 3 months to several years, depending on the company. Therefore, it’s essential to act quickly when seeking these records.

How Long Does it Take to Subpoena Phone Records?

Subpoenaing phone records can be lengthy, depending on the telecommunications company. All companies must keep phone records for at least 180 days, but some may retain them longer. To confirm if the company has kept records past this time frame, it is best to contact them directly.

The cost of subpoenaing phone records varies greatly and depends on several factors, such as the data’s complexity and the company’s subpoena.

How Much Does it Cost to Subpoena Phone Records?

Telecommunication companies typically charge an upfront rate plus an additional fee for each phone record they produce, ranging from $25 to thousands of dollars.

Working with an attorney can significantly increase legal fees associated with subpoenaing phone records.

It is important to note that while obtaining phone records through a subpoena is possible, it may not always be necessary or feasible due to the cost involved.

In some cases, alternative methods, such as requesting voluntary disclosure from the telecommunications company, may be more effective and cost-efficient.

Conclusion

Subpoenaing cell phone records is an essential legal tool used in legal cases. A court order requires one or both parties to produce information relevant to the proceedings.

The United States Constitution protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures, so law enforcement officers must have probable cause to search a person’s property, including their cell phone.

To obtain records from someone’s cell phone company, you must submit a subpoena and serve copies of the subpoena to the person whose records you are requesting.

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