Former Municipial Court Judge

Former Assistant District Attny.

Denton County Office 940-580-2899
Collin County Office 972-954-1947

Family Violence and Refusal to Answer a Subpoena

Tim Powers

Law Office of Tim Powers


If you practice in Denton County, you may not know this, but the subpoenas issued in criminal cases involving family violence (domestic violence) by the District and County Clerks offices contain language which inadvertently coerces a person into compliance. The subpoenas state that refusal to answer a subpoena could result in the person being arrested and / or fined. The subpoena cites Texas Civil Rules of Procedure 176.8 which authorizes punishment by contempt for failing to obey a subpoena. Specifically, Rule 176.8 states that failure to comply with a subpoena will result in a punishment of up to 180 days confinement and a fine up to $500. This language inclusion, as well as the punishment for failure to answer, is incorrect.

In the case styled, In re Dotson, 76 S.W.3d 393, 396 (Tex.Crim.App.,2002), the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals held that failure to answer a subpoena does not fall under the provisions of civil Rule 176.8 but instead, the penalty for failure to answer a subpoena in a criminal case is limited to the provisions of Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Art. 24.05. Art. 24.05 states that the only punishment which could be imposed for refusing to obey a subpoena in a criminal case is a fine not to exceed $500 in felony cases and $100 in misdemeanors. The court rationed that since the subpoena was issued in a criminal case, the court held that the correct statute to apply is the statute which is the statute specific to such failure, Art. 24.05. In re Dotson, 76 S.W.3d at 396.

Thus, the next time a witness fails to answer a subpoena in a domestic violence case, the only penalty for the failure to answer is a fine not to exceed $500 in felony cases and $100 in misdemeanors. No one is advocating that a witness fail to obey a subpoena validly issued. However, falsely stating the possible punishment is inappropriate. Could this falsity be interpreted as "falsifying a government document" ? You be the judge.

If you are seeking aggressive criminal representation by an experienced criminal defense attorney for your Denton County family violence case or arrest in Denton County, contact the offices of Tim Powers today. There is no charge or obligation for the initial consultation. 940.580.2899.

*Tim Powers is an attorney licensed to practice law by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice. For legal advice about any specific legal question you should directly consult an attorney.