March 26, 2019

Colorado Supreme Court: In re People v. Spykstra

on June 21, 2010.

Crim.P. 17(c)—Pretrial Subpoenas Duces Tecum—District Attorney Standing to Move to Quash or Modify—Compliance With Crim.P. 17(c)—Unreasonable or Oppressive Subpoenas.

In this child sexual assault case, the Supreme Court found that the district attorney has standing to challenge the defendant’s Crim.P. 17(c) pretrial subpoenas duces tecum served on the victim’s parents. The Court also held that the trial court abused its discretion in ordering enforcement of defendant’s subpoenas by (1) converting the subpoenas into the functional equivalent of a search warrant when it ordered the parents to allow defendant’s expert into their home to search their computer for e-mails written by the victim, and (2) failing to require defendant to demonstrate a reasonable likelihood that the e-mails existed and were relevant and evidentiary.

In keeping with its limited purposes, Crim.P. 17(c) expressly contemplates production of evidence by a subpoenaed witness in court, not search and seizure of the witness’s property by a defendant or the defendant’s representative. Addressing the limitation against unreasonable or oppressive subpoenas set forth in Crim.P. 17(c), the Court adopted a test substantially similar to that employed in United States v. Nixon, 418 U.S. 683, 699-700 (1974). Because defendant failed to demonstrate a reasonable likelihood that the e-mails she sought existed on the parents’ computer and were relevant and evidentiary, the trial court erred in denying the motion to quash. The Court made absolute the rule to show cause and directed the trial court to quash the subpoenas duces tecum served on the victim’s parents.

Summary and full case available here.

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