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Legally Reviewed by:

Jonathan Rosenfeld
J.D

April 28, 2022

Over $400 Million worth of case results

Awarded The Best Lawyer in 2024 by U.S. News

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A subpoena is a writ compelling the attendance of someone at a court proceeding. It requires them to appear in court at the specified court. If they don’t appear in court or respond to the subpoena requests, they may have criminal contempt or civil contempt charges applied.

If you want to know more about what is a subpoena or what his or her legal obligation is if they are served a traditional or witness subpoena, then keep reading the following sections.

Our team at the Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers can explain all of the relevant parts of the subpoena.

Man Receiving a Subpoena in a Personal Injury Cases

A subpoena is a court document that is served on an individual or company ordering them to comply with a request or appear in court.

What Kind of Legal Document is a Subpoena?

Subpoena actually means “under penalty.” That is the context in which you and your civil attorneys should understand this document. If you don’t appear in court or produce documents requested or other tangible evidence and physical evidence, you will get in trouble.

There are two main types of subpoenas: subpoena ad testificandum and subpoena deuces tecum. Civil contempt occurs normally if you do not respond to either of them or fail to appear in court on the court date.

A subpoena ad testificandum merely requires you to show up to the court case (civil case or criminal case) or related government agency hearing date.

Then, you must testify as a witness and fully comply with said testimony of the civil case or criminal case. You will get jail time and contempt of court from the judge if the person does not show up.

A subpoena duces tecum or deposition subpoena is a court-ordered command that mandates that you give documents, tangible evidence, information, or other materials to the other party.

There are certain things that are typically requested in most cases in court issue subpoenas. There are also common topics that a witness must testify on or get a contempt of court from the judge under the law.

You can review them with your attorneys to see if your hand-delivered subpoenas requests are legal and if you must comply.

You may get either via official notice including personal delivery or certified mail with a return receipt requested. The judicial process set up proper procedures for the subpoena in a pending case so you testify as a witness or hand over requested information properly.

If you don’t, you may get a contempt of court and still have to transfer testimony or documents to the party.

What are Subpoenas Used for in Court Normally?

If another party wants to obtain information or documents or get you to testify and secure your testimony, then they may send you a subpoena.

Their attorneys will normally spend a lot of time drafting these documents so that your failure to reply will get you in trouble under the law.

As noted above, the subpoena may come in different forms to the person. It may ask for documents. It may also call the person to be a witness.

Failure to answer in both scenarios, absent a legal excuse, may open that person up to various penalties subsect to the law.

Here are some other frequent needs for a subpoena:

  • Health information
  • Computer files
  • Income and employment documentation
  • Financial documents like tax returns
  • Photos

Try to remember that this is different than the summons. A summons merely puts a person or their attorney on legal notice of the lawsuit. A subpoena requires you to go somewhere, submit records or documents, or give information subject to the confines of the court.

May a Court Clerk issue a Subpoena Duces Tecum?

Normally, a subpoena can be signed and sent out from an attorney from the issuing court where the attorney is a member. Sometimes, if the legal subpoena requires a high-ranking member to do something, like a governor, then a judge must sign it.

These sorts of people can issue a subpoena in your client’s case. This will help you to get records and information to make your legal points in court.

How are Subpoenas Served?

Typically, an attorney will request a subpoena based upon some legal grounds and the local clerk, notary agent, judge, or peace justice will issue it.

Once the subpoena is properly issued, it can be served in any of these manners:

  • Personal delivery (i.e. hand-deliver it);
  • Via e-mail to the last know internet address with receipt requested;
  • Certified mail to the last known residential or business address; or
  • Hearing it read to you.

Talk to your attorney about the legal grounds upon which a subpoena can be issued, and how you should respond to your subpoena.

How Should You Respond to a Subpoena?

The first thing you should do if you get a subpoena is read it carefully, preferably with a lawyer. It will have several subtle and distinct demands so you should digest it slowly.

After reading it for the first time, try and list out what it is asking you to do, produce, or testify to. You want to be as prepared as possible and this legal document should outline your duties.

Finally, with your counsel, attempt to discern who is sending the subpoena. Identifying these people will help you prepare better for your case.

What Civil or Criminal Penalties Will You Get if you Do Not Respond?

Regardless of whether you are in a civil or criminal case, failing to respond to subpoenas can carry extraordinary consequences. It may even end up in you losing the case without being heard.

Generally, penalties for non-compliance are either fines or jail time, or even both in some circumstances. Plus, these can continue until you eventually do comply or have the case ruled against you.

Speak to your legal representative about what compliance with a subpoena would mean to you and your rights.

What You Should Do After You Get a Subpoena.

Here is a list of things to do once you are served a subpoena:

  • Contact your lawyer
  • Read the subpoena with your lawyer
  • Make a list of all demands the subpoena makes
  • Discuss whether or not the opposing party had justification to make those demands

Of course, this list is just a beginning but it should put you on the right path to handling a subpoena should you get one.

How Can an Attorney Assist You after You Are Served with a Subpoena?

More than anything, a skilled lawyer should be able to help you discern what exactly you have to do and don’t have to do upon reading the subpoenas.

Then, they can help you comply with those commands or legally and respectfully object to those commands.

Speak with a Member of Our Team

Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers help personal injury and accident victims understand the legal process so they secure maximum financial recovery under the law.

Contact us today at (888) 424-5757 to find out what that could be for you and your case.

Our services are free if we don’t win. We can also start today so give us a call to get the process started.

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