312 – Testimony

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I. Policy

A. Employees subpoenaed to testify on behalf of the defense in a criminal court proceeding, or in a civil court or administrative proceeding, shall not do so as a representative of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) unless directed by the Sheriff, his or her designee, or their bureau commander.

B. Handling Subpoenas and Notification:

Employees subpoenaed or requested to testify on behalf of the defense in a criminal case, against Harris County in a civil case, or against HCSO interest in any Civil Service hearing, arbitration, administrative hearing, or trial shall immediately notify the Sheriff through the chain of command.

In addition, employees shall immediately notify, by phone, the HCSO Legal Services section and the prosecutor in the case for which the subpoena was issued or the attorney representing Harris County.

C. Attire:

Employees are prohibited from wearing the official uniform in any criminal or civil proceeding, Civil Service hearing, arbitration, administrative hearing, or trial to which they are subpoenaed or requested to testify as a character witness or give testimony on behalf of any person.

Employees are also prohibited from wearing the official uniform to any of the above listed functions if they will be testifying against the county, against HCSO interest, or against State of Texas interest.

D. Court Attendance:

An employee scheduled or subpoenaed to appear before any judicial or civil proceeding or administrative hearing shall be punctual.

1. No employee shall appear for participation in any hearing without being properly prepared. If such participation involves the presentation of physical evidence, all property that will be used as evidence shall be suitably arranged for presentation to the court.

2. Employees shall at all times be attentive and respectful to the presiding officer of the court or administrative hearing.

3. When giving testimony, employees shall speak calmly and explicitly in a clear, distinct, and audible manner to be easily heard by the court and jury.

4. Employees shall testify impartially, and with the strictest accuracy, confining their testimony case before the court. They shall neither suppress nor overstate such testimony to favor or discredit any person.

E. Compensation:

1. Factual Witness:

Employees who are subpoenaed by either side to testify as factual witnesses in a legal action regarding Harris County or the scope of their employment will receive compensation as described in HCSO  Department Policy #217 – Overtime.

Employees are authorized to receive off-duty court attendance compensation or regular duty pay when they serve as witnesses or are required to give depositions between private litigants if the testimony provided was the result of a service rendered in their official capacity as HCSO employees. Employees must have officially been notified to attend as witnesses or to give a deposition. The official notice (subpoena) must be attached to the overtime form.

2. Character Witness:

Employees who are subpoenaed or choose to testify voluntarily as a character witness for any person in a legal or administrative proceeding must do so on their own time and are not eligible for compensation.

An employee may not wear the HCSO uniform while providing testimony, provide any correspondence on official letterhead or document using the HCSO badge or logo, or represent him- or herself as a HCSO member in any manner. Testimony shall be limited to the scope of the personal relationship and may not reference any agency-related issues to include on-duty and extra employment activities.

3. Professional Witness Fees:

Employees may not accept professional witness fees for appearing as witnesses in any matter investigated by the HCSO or in which the county has an interest. Employees accepting witness fees will follow the guidelines set forth in HCSO Department Policy #244 – Extra Employment.

Supervisors who are in doubt as to any employee’s status as a factual or character witness should contact the Legal Services section for assistance.

F. Compliance with Subpoenas:

1. When properly served, an employee shall comply with the terms of a subpoena naming him or her as a witness in any legal proceeding unless the subpoena is legally challenged and the employee is excused from compliance or if good cause is shown to excuse the employee’s compliance or failure to comply.

2. Harris County will not compensate employees for responding to a subpoena or for testifying in a civil, criminal, or administrative proceeding when the testimony is not directly related to the course and scope of the employee’s employment and performance of duties.


This policy has been revised on the below listed dates:

April 21, 2009

February 8, 2012

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