Most people don’t know what a subpoena is. A subpoena or warrant is a writ or order from a court directing a person to appear and give testimony or produce evidence. This document also sets out the consequences of not obeying the subpoena. A subpoena may be issued by a court or another body with authority. This can be a legislative body or an administrative agency.
Subpoenas are potent tools that can obtain information and evidence otherwise tricky or impossible to achieve. However, they must be appropriately used to be effective and avoid potential legal problems.
Subpoenas are usually used in criminal cases but can also be used in civil cases. In a criminal case, a subpoena may be issued to compel a witness to testify or to produce evidence. In a civil case, a subpoena may be used to obtain documents or other evidence from a person or company. It is essential to understand how they work and your rights before receiving one.
How Subpoenas are Served
Subpoenas are typically served by a police officer or a process server working for a process server agency. The person serving the subpoena must be at least 18 years old and cannot be a party to the case. A process server must be thoroughly knowledgeable about the process of serving subpoenas, as specific rules must be followed for the subpoena to be considered valid. That is why lawyers get the services of experienced agencies.
A process server typically delivers the subpoena to the person named in the subpoena, along with a “notice and acknowledgment” form. The notice and acknowledgment form explains the recipient’s rights and responsibilities under the law. The recipient must sign and return the form to the process server while retaining a copy.
The subpoena recipient then has a certain amount of time to comply with the subpoena. This period will vary depending on the state where the case is being tried and the type of case. In some states, recipients have as little as three days to comply, while in others, they may have up to 30 days.
The server must prove that the subpoena was properly served by filing a “proof of service” with the court. The proof of service is a document that includes the date and time the subpoena was served, the name of the person served, and how it was served.
Consequences of Not Complying with a Subpoena
Suppose you have been served with a subpoena. In that case, seeking legal advice as soon as possible is important to understand your rights and responsibilities before taking action. Ignoring a subpoena is not advisable, as it can result in serious consequences.
The person who receives the subpoena must comply with it unless they can show that it is not valid or that they have a good reason not to comply. If the recipient does not comply with the subpoena for no good reason, they may be held in contempt of court. This serious offense can result in a fine or even jail time. In some cases, the court may issue a warrant for your arrest.
Can You Challenge a Subpoena?
There are a few ways to challenge a subpoena. If you believe the subpoena is invalid, you can file a motion to quash the subpoena with the court. This must be done within the period specified in the notice and acknowledgment form. You will need to provide a reason for why you believe the subpoena is not valid. For example, you may believe that the subpoena was not properly served or that it is too broad in scope.
Another way to challenge a subpoena is to file a motion for a protective order. This is done if you believe that complying with the subpoena would be unduly burdensome or violate your rights somehow. For example, suppose you are being asked to produce confidential information. In that case, you may be able to get a protective order exempting you from having to do so. It is important to note that even if you successfully quash or modify a subpoena, the court may still order you to comply with it.
Respond to a Subpoena with Proper Knowledge
Subpoenas can be complex and confusing. If you are ever served with a subpoena, it is important to take the time to understand what it is and how you should respond. Never ignore a subpoena lest you face grave consequences. Instead, seek legal advice from an experienced attorney at one. Your lawyer will be able to represent you in court if necessary.