July 11, 1995 (517) 335-6397

Governor Signs Investigative Subpoena Bill

Governor John Engler announced today that he has signed Senate Bill 85, which amends the Code of Criminal Procedure to give prosecuting attorneys in Michigan the power to issue investigative subpoenas. Senator William Van Regenmorter, R-Hudsonville, sponsored the legislation.

"This is a meaningful crime-fighting initiative that will help ensure that truth is heard and justice served," Engler said. "It allows police and prosecutors to investigate felony crimes more quickly and completely than ever before."

The subpoenas, granted with prior judicial approval, can force uncooperative witnesses to testify or produce evidence before, rather than after, a criminal complaint is filed and save countless hours of criminal investigation. Under the new law, prosecutors must file an accompanying petition asserting that they have "reasonable cause" to believe that a felony has been committed, and that the person to be subpoenaed may be able to provide relevant testimony and other evidence concerning the crime under investigation. Witnesses must then appear before the prosecuting attorney to give testimony under oath or to produce physical evidence related to the investigation.

Engler said the legislation supplants the state's inefficient grand jury process of compelling testimony from witnesses and is a tool that law enforcement has long needed. Some suspected murderers and other felons are never brought to justice, he said, because witnesses who hold crucial information refuse to cooperate due to fear of criminal liability or retribution by the perpetrators. Now, a witness who fails to comply with an investigative subpoena could be punished for contempt of court, with up to one year in jail or a $10,000 fine, or both.

The legislation extends to all felony crimes and provides for "use immunity" for witnesses, which means prosecutors cannot use the compelled testimony in a subsequent criminal investigation of that witness, except for the purposes of impeachment or a prosecution for perjury. Also, information obtained pursuant to an investigative subpoena would be confidential and exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.

Senate Bill 85 received support from the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan, the Department of State Police and the state Attorney General. It has an effective date of October 1, 1995.