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September 14, 2005

Subpoena Cell Phone Records?

Hey all you google sleuths and communications law peeps: Help!

1) If you have a cell phone number and the name of its owner, how can you find out who the cell service provider is so that you can subpoena the call records for that number?

2) When you send such a subpoena, what kinds of records can/should you ask for? What are you entitled to get? What's free, and what costs money?

Any help would be very appreciated! My client thanks you in advance for your help!

Posted September 14, 2005 10:07 AM | 3L

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I tried to subpoena cell phone records once for a client who was being stalked -- turned out it is STUPID expensive -- like 10K and up. This was for a civil case though. Phone companies may have some sort of obligation to provide records to the government or if it's a criminal case -- I'm not sure. We ended up just using my clients' cell phone bills -- they had enough information re: calls received.

Posted by: M at September 14, 2005 11:46 AM

1. Okay, this is the easy part...

Every phone number has an area code, which most people are familiar with. But the next three digits are the exchange, or NXX code, which most people don't know about or pay attention to. The NXX code (theoretically) corresponds to the phone company central office. It's basically a switch identifier. In other words, it is assigned to a specific carrier.

So if you know the phone number is 415-320-XXXX, you can go here:

to query the North American Numbering Plan Administration database to discover that is a T-Mobile number.

Now, local portability has thrown some doubt into that, but 99% of the time, that will ID the carrier.

2. I would assume (being only a lowly 1.75L) that you would want to subpoena incoming and outgoing call records between specific dates. That would give you the numbers who called in or who were called, along with call times and durations. The carriers have all of that info (and more). But I have no idea if any of it is free... I suspect, as M mentioned above, that you have to pay for the phone company resources to research and pull the records. Which is not likely to be cheap!

Posted by: Dave! at September 14, 2005 02:36 PM

I use:

Here in Cali, I have yet to have a criminal case where we were required to pay for the cellular telephone call records that we obtained via SDT.

Cellular companies can not only provide you the numbers and time called but also WHERE the cellular phone was located at the time each particular call was made (nearest intersection or actual coordinates).

The telephone companies are very helpful and if you talk to their Risk Management/Subpena control people they will answer any questions you might have.

Posted by: Sanchovilla at September 14, 2005 06:28 PM

I know people who have gotten cell phone records using these web sites to find out about cheating BFs and such. God luck.

Posted by: TSCGirl at September 14, 2005 08:48 PM

I think the thing that you have to think about here is what you need the records for.

For example, Are you getting the records to show an alibi? Then you just need the records of the specific day of the allegations. (Or, even narrowed down to within an hour.)

Or, by contrast, are you getting the records so you can say, "He's not stalking her, she's calling him too - it's a mutual relationship!" In which case you might want, for example, the whole month so you can show how often she is calling him over the course of a month.

I think we usually pay the by page (of records received), so the more specific you can be in narrowing it down, the better.

Now, the next thing is figuring out, once you have the carrier, how & where to serve the subpoena.

Posted by: blondie at September 14, 2005 10:19 PM

I don't know the subpoena answer, but fyi, I've gotten cell phone records of public officials and government bureaucrats MANY times under the Texas Open Records Act. Don't know what the open records standards are on that in other states.

Posted by: Scott at September 15, 2005 07:22 AM

Thanks everyone for the great tips -- exactly what I needed! This makes it official: The readers of this blog are the best and brightest people on the planet! Thank you.

My supervisor seems to think that here in D.C. we can get records of outgoing calls for free, but have to pay for incoming calls. We only need records for, like an hour period, and we know exactly when it is, so that's good. Another project has preoccupied me the last couuple of days but I'm going to see if I can follow up on this today and get the subpoena served.

Posted by: ambimb at September 16, 2005 07:06 AM


As far as finding the responsible organization for a telephone number. is a free service that will point you in the right direction. Just enter the area code and prefix. Many times as previously stated these numbers may be ported to other providers. In this case you may want to contact a law enforcement officer in white collar crime and ask them to do it for your. There is an automated phone attendant service called (if memory serves me correct) Newstar. This service tells law enforcement who the phone is ported to. It is a free, instant service. Another solution to your problem might be to hire a reputable, private vendor (such as myself) to run these numbers for you. Usually a vender will return the results (which can include subscriber name and address, Can be reached number, start date, biling information, toll records (for outgoing calls) etc..) within 24's. I usually return my searches the same day.

Posted by: Sleuth at September 17, 2005 09:42 AM


That is probably Neustar--they are the company that has the contract to administer the NANPA database I linked to above, so if you use that (free) web link, you'll get the same info. Just FYI.

Posted by: Dave! at September 19, 2005 12:07 AM

Update: I tried all your advice and ended up at what seemed like a dead end -- the nanpa database that Dave! recommended said the number was owned by service provider X, but X said no, that's never been ours. So I called Neustar and asked what was up and they pointed me to their National Pooling site. Click Reports-->Block Report, then fill in the state and area code of the number. The resulting table led me right to the service provider. It happened to be Verizon and the Neustar employee helpfully gave me a direct phone number for Verizon's subpoena office, so I called, got their address and fax number, and even talked to someone who said both incoming and outgoing call records for one day would be free. So sweet. I'll let you know if I end up getting what we want. Thanks again for all your help! I didn't have a clue where to begin with this...

Posted by: ambimb at September 20, 2005 07:56 PM

I need cell number, call records,ect for 618 697 4060 which has been changed...she has my kids. Please help!

Posted by: Please help at October 7, 2005 12:28 AM

if you get your own phone number subpoena'd, by the DA's office, first of all would they do that if you complained of harassment? and would the subpoena'd phone records show incoming calls. AND if they do show the number of the incoming caller... how do you know if it's REALLY that caller. I mean what if the incoming caller is spoofing another call to show up on caller ID? Anyone know how that works?

Posted by: Anonymous at November 7, 2005 07:30 PM

How can I request the address of a cell phone number that has been calling me. How can I go about asking the cell phone company. My two dogs were robbed from me at gun point and now they are calling me asking for ransom. I have already made a police report but they tell me that my case has not yet been assigned to a detective. I am desperate to find my two dogs.

Posted by: david at February 12, 2006 09:06 AM

Yikes! I wish I had answers for those of you ending up here w/court cases and, missing kids, missing dogs, etc. Unfortunately, I can't be much help. My point here was that it's pretty easy for an attorney in a criminal case to subpoena phone records, but what makes it easy is the power of the court order. Without that, I don't think phone companies are going to give up records like this very easily.

David: I think the police should be able to track that call for you -- once they get a detective working on your case. Good luck!

Posted by: ambimb at February 12, 2006 09:33 AM

If I'm acting as my own lawyer in my divorce can I have my husband's calls,videos and text messaging subpoena'd

Posted by: Nit at April 20, 2006 02:07 AM

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