Friday, 31 January 2020

How Do Subpoenas Work?

Written by James Hodgson

Reading Time: 3 minutes

What are Subpoenas?

Subpoenas are legal documents the court issues at the request of a party. There are three types of subpoenas. The first is a subpoena to give evidence. This requires the addressee to attend court to give oral evidence. Alternatively, the court may issue a subpoena for production, requiring you to produce a certain document. Finally, the court may decide to issue a subpoena for production and to give evidence, which requires you do both. 

Parties can request a subpoena if a person refuses to (or is unable to, for whatever reason) give evidence or provide relevant documents to the court.

Subpoenas can only be addressed to one person. It will contain a schedule of requested documents which the issuing party seeks to have produced. As a result, the person served will need to gather these documents and produce them to court by the return date stated on the subpoena.

Click here for a step-by-step guide to applying for a subpoena.

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How long are Subpoeanas enforceable for?

Subpoenas are enforceable until any of the following events occur: 

  • You have complied with the subpoena.
  • A court or the issuing party release you from the obligation to comply with the subpoena
  • The hearing or trial has concluded.

How do you serve a Subpoena?

When issuing a subpoena, you must serve it on the person or business it concerns. There are multiple ways to serve subpoenas. These include delivering them by hand, or e-mailing to the last known address of the individuals. Alternatively, this can also be done via certified mail to the last known address or even reading it aloud to the individual. If you are served with a Subpoena, you should not ignore it.

What happens if you ignore a Subpoena?

As a subpoena is a part of a court’s legal process, you will be in contempt of court if you fail to comply with it. However, courts can set aside subpoenas where they consider it to amount to an abuse of process. A common instances where this occurs is if the Subpoena is too broad in scope.

Final Thoughts

Subpoenas are formal legal documents and should always be dealt with seriously and promptly. By failing to comply you may be held in contempt of court. This can result in fines, imprisonment, or both. However, receiving a subpoena doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve done something wrong. Rather, it just means that your presence or the information that you can provide is required in a case.

Every scenario is different, which is why If you have been subpoenaed, seeking legal advice is a great way to ensure you follow the correct procedures to fully comply with its demands.

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