It’s one of those things that most lawyers have had to deal with at one time or another in personal injury cases. The client (plaintiff or defendant), or an important witness, might be, as we call it, a “resident of the State.” That is, they may be in jail.
If the testimony is important for your case, you have the burden to get it. A judge may not be very forgiving if you did not do the legwork to arrange for the prisoner’s testimony. You don’t want to have to ask for a postponement unless it is absolutely necessary.
You’d think it would be a simple matter to get someone transferred from a jail to courthouse (after all, they probably took the reverse trip at some time in the past). Sometimes it is easy, sometimes it is not. How do you get them out of jail (however briefly)? File a writ of habeas corpus ad testificandum. A writ is a written command. Habeas corpus is a Latin phrase that means “that you have the body.” Ad testificandum is another Latin phrase which refers to oral testimony, usually before a court. Put it all together, and it is essentially a command that a person be released from jail for testimony at court.
Well before the trial date (I try for a month before), the documents should be filed with the court. I typically send a courtesy copy to the jail, just so they know to be on the lookout for the court’s order. After the court receives it, they will formally issue the writ to the jail, and the jail should arrange for the prisoner’s transportation to and from the courthouse. I say should because this is where the process sometimes derails. At least a week before the trial date, it is a good idea to contact the jail and make sure they have the writ, and are planning on transporting the prisoner. Make sure they know which prisoner, where the prisoner needs to be, and what time the prisoner should be there. It’s not uncommon for mistakes to be made. I heard of a case recently where the prisoner was supposed to be transported to the Baltimore City District Court, but instead got moved to Cecil County. My last two prisoner transfers, from the Hagerstown facility, went without a hitch, fortunately.
Here’s a copy of the document we file with the court: Habeus Corpus (02-24-18). If you want a Word version (so you can more easily make changes for your case), please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, with the subject line “Sample Maryland Writ of Habeas Corpus.”