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So What Exactly is a Subpoena?

Litigation By Binnall Law Group - 2023/01/12 at 01:53pm

What is a Subpoena? 

A subpoena is an order issued or approved by a court. Generally, a subpoena is used to demand testimony or production of documents, or both, at a certain date, time, and place. You may receive a subpoena as part of either a civil or criminal case, even if you are not a party to the case.  

 If you have received a subpoena, you may be asking what to do, especially since you must comply or object in a timely manner or you may face legal penalties including the possibility of jail time.   

 First, you will want to read the subpoena in detail to ascertain what the court has ordered specifically. The subpoena should contain: the names of the parties, the date, time, and place that you must appear, the name of the lawyer issuing the subpoena, and the location and type of court in which the relevant case is taking place.  

Second, you should consult with experienced legal counsel on any issues that you are concerned about regarding the documents to be turned over or testimony to be given.  

 If the subpoena is seeking documents, it should describe the documents in the subpoena or in an attachment to the subpoena. You will need to review and prepare the appropriate documents before the date on the subpoena. If it requires only testimony, then you will need to prepare for that testimony and any questions that may arise.  

 In the course of the attorney’s review, you will likely discuss whether you can object to the subpoena. Such objections must be in writing and specifically identify the reasons that it is unfair or unjust for you to appear or to produce the requested documents. Filing objections in a timely manner is crucial, or the objections may be waived.  

Generally, a subpoena for testimony will require that you remain at the place described until the testimony is closed unless excused. You or your attorney should consult with the lawyer for the party that issued the subpoena about when you will be called to testify and whether you will be called on a subsequent day or in the future to avoid any unnecessary confusion or time spent waiting.  

 If you cannot appear on the day requested in the subpoena, you or your counsel may contact the attorney that issued the subpoena in an attempt to reschedule the appearance. Usually, the issuing lawyer’s contact information will be included in the subpoena. If it is impossible for you to appear, consult with your attorney about next steps to avoid legal penalties for non-compliance.  

A subpoena is a legal document, and as such, it is always a wise decision to consult with an attorney that is experienced in the issues underlying the subpoena to assist in determining how to best handle your specific subpoena.