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What is a Subpoena?

Our experienced trial attorneys want to make sure that our clients are informed with every step of their legal process. There are several different terms that we would want our clients to be knowledgeable about prior to filing a claim. We understand that filing a claim could be very difficult, and so our experienced attorneys are here to guide you through every step of the way with your claim. One of the most common questions that we receive is the importance of a subpoena and whether it must be followed.

A subpoena is a legal document that could request several different types of things. For example, a subpoena could be a request for the production of documents, or it could be a request that a person appears in court for a legal proceeding. A subpoena is supposed to be issued from the court. A subpoena can be used in any case, from sexual assault cases, to car accident cases.

There are two different types of subpoenas. This includes:

  • Subpoena ad testificandum: this requires that the person testify in court
  • Subpoena duces tecum: this is a document that requires that the person turn in documents, materials, or other evidence referred to in the subpoena

What does subpoena mean?

The term subpoena literally means “under penalty”, which determines that a person that receives the subpoena and does not comply with it will have to face civil or criminal penalties such as monetary fines or jail time.

What does an attorney do with a subpoena?

Subpoenas are issued under both federal and state courts. Attorneys use subpoenas to obtain information that could help their clients’ case. For example, if an attorney wants to have a witness testify at a deposition, they would file a subpoena to that witness to have them show up at the legal proceeding. Our personal injury attorneys use the subpoena to obtain witness testimony to determine liability, in order to be able to use it during trial. For example, if you were a victim in sexual harassment workplace environment, our attorneys would subpoena the harassing employer in order to obtain their statements.

Our attorneys have decades of experience, and have issued thousands of subpoenas for various different types of evidence. Examples of the different types of evidence of subpoena could request includes:

  • Income tax returns
  • Business records
  • Employment records
  • Charts
  • Computer files
  • Insurance records
  • Medical bills
  • DNA samples

Who issues subpoenas?

Subpoenas are almost always issued by attorneys on behalf of a court. The subpoena is signed by the attorney seeking the evidence or deposition of the witness. The subpoena could be requested by an attorney, a Court Clerk, or a notary.

What happens when a subpoena is issued?

Once the subpoenas are issued, the next step would be to serve the individual with the subpoena. Different ways a subpoena could be served include:

  • Certified mail
  • In person hand-delivered
  • Emails with a return email requested
  • Read out loud in court
Service woman knocking on door to issue notice

What should I do if I receive a subpoena?

If you have been served with a subpoena, the next step is to understand the case and take every necessary step to adhere to the subpoena’s request. It is important that you understand who is requesting the information from you and why. For example, do you need to turn in any evidence? Or do you need to show up to testify?

A subpoena would usually have a hearing date. You should immediately take note of that. The hearing date will most likely not be able to change based on your availability. In certain circumstances, you could potentially contact the attorney stated on the subpoena for any questions regarding the next steps on your end.

If you believe you need more information, contact the court immediately. A subpoena is usually very detailed and contains specifics as to what the individual’s next steps should be. If you fail to adhere to the subpoenas request, you could potentially be liable for monetary fines and/or jail time. If the subpoena is requesting for certain physical evidence, it is important to make sure that you protect the physical evidence until it is turned in to the requesting party.

A subpoena should be taken very seriously since it is a court-ordered command. Someone who fails to respond to a subpoena is subject to civil and criminal contempt charges. Our attorneys understand that a subpoena could be very complex, and so it is very important to seek an experienced litigation attorney to pursue your claims for you.

Could I refuse a subpoena?

Only in certain circumstances could someone refuse a subpoena. This is only the case when it violates your Fifth amendment rights or the information contained privileged material. If you believe that the information the subpoena is requesting falls under any one of these categories, contact our attorneys today to determine the next necessary steps you need to take when responding to the subpoena.

Detail of a subpoena for a court case

Subpoena vs Summons

We have a lot of clients that sometimes are mistaken on the difference between a summons and a subpoena. A summons requires a person to appear before a judge, but a subpoena requires a person to appear for testimony. A subpoena may require a witness to appear for a deposition or to testify in court, but a summons requires a person to return to court in order to appear before a judge. Both summons and subpoenas require serving through a process server and compel the individual to go to court. However, the purpose for each legal document is very different.

For example, a summons could also include a bench warrant. A bench warrant occurs when someone has been charged with a crime and should have to appear in front of a judge for a hearing. Summons are usually served on defendants, whereas subpoenas are usually served on individuals that have material information regarding the case, such as witnesses.

If you have received a subpoena, we can help you

If you or a loved one have received a subpoena, a summons, or even a bench warrant, contact our attorneys today to receive more guidance on how to comply with a subpoena and its demands. Subpoenas should be taken very seriously since failure to follow could result in criminal and civil fines. Each lawsuit is different; therefore, each subpoena may require different types of information. To better determine your circumstance, and how you could respond to a subpoena, contact our California litigation attorneys immediately to determine the next steps.

Our attorneys are readily available via phone, email, or in person. We have represented clients from various different cities in California including Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Irvine, Beverly Hills, Century City, Fresno, Reno, etc. Contact us today for a free case consultation.

***Disclaimer: This page is created by Heidari Law Group for educational purposes. This article provides a general understanding of the law. It does not provide specific advice. By using this site and reading through this page, there is no attorney-client relationship created between you and any member of Heidari Law. Further, due to the constant change of the law, some parts of the information above may no longer be good law.

Sam Heidari

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