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How to Properly Respond to a Subpoena

People respond differently upon receiving a subpoena. Receiving one might be an ultimate horror for some.

How to Properly Respond to a Subpoena

However, others may not even be aware of what a subpoena is and what they can expect.

Thus, completely ignoring it, not knowing the consequences that await them. It is essential that one is aware of serious legal matters such as this. So, what is a subpoena, and how do you properly respond to it?

What Is It?

A subpoena is a formal written order issued by the court. It may state that you are required to provide documents or testimony in connection with a particular lawsuit or an investigation conducted by the government. A subpoena may require you to accomplish an action or provide information depending on what it is for.

Subpoenas offer attorneys a chance to obtain facts and information that could serve as evidence to help prove or disprove their client’s case under state and federal civil or criminal procedural laws. An example of its use would be the Federal Trade Commission issuing an FTC subpoena to a company to obtain documents and information that can aid in the investigation of a case regarding antitrust violations.

Likewise, civil attorneys frequently subpoena individuals to obtain knowledge that may help settle a claim made by someone. For example, to determine joint custody arrangements, an attorney representing a spouse in a child custody hearing may issue a subpoena to the other spouse to appear in court.

There are three kinds of subpoenas:

1. Witness Subpoena

This subpoena type requires a person to appear in court at a certain date and time to serve as a witness, usually in a trial.

2. Subpoena Duces Tecum

It is also known as a subpoena for the production of evidence. It is a court order requiring the person subpoenaed to produce records, books, or other documents under his or her control at a specified time/place in a court hearing or a deposition. Most of the time, compliance can be achieved without an in-person appearance if arranged in advance. It can be done by mailing, or sending records via email, or providing the records at a specified date.

3. Deposition Subpoena

On the other hand, this type of subpoena is a court order that requires a person who is not a party to a lawsuit to provide copies of business records and/or appear at a deposition to answer questions asked by one party in a lawsuit. Not to be confused with the previous one, a Deposition Subpoena differs from the Subpoena DucesTecum in that the requested documents and testimony may not be used in an actual court hearing and are part of the “discovery process” before trial only.

How To Respond Properly

Certainly, it is not and never a good idea to ignore a subpoena, especially if it is issued to you. You may face unwanted consequences if you do. Upon receiving a subpoena, some might immediately have a panic attack or be consumed by anxiety. However, it is advised to keep calm and not let your emotions get the best of you. With that said, These are the steps you should perform in order to respond properly to a subpoena.

1. Read The Subpoena

After immediately calling your attorney, the first thing you should do, of course, is to read the subpoena and determine its contents to exactly know what you got yourself into. Determine the important information such as the specified requirement being asked for as well as the date and time said compliance is due.

2. Determine Potential Objections

Upon reading the issued subpoena, there may be some potential objections that may eliminate or limit his or her need to comply with the requirements, as stated in the issued subpoena. These may be:

Privileged Information

If the information is considered privileged, it may be one reason why a person may not wish to provide testimony at a deposition or during a hearing. A variety of privileges may apply in any given case. Different privileges are recognized in different states. In addition to this, certain benefits may only be available in a criminal context.

Fifth Amendment Privilege

The threat of self-incrimination may be another potential reason for an individual not to provide testimony. Due to the possibility of incriminating himself or herself in a civil or criminal case, the receiver of the subpoena can ask not to be required to testify. He or she may not be aware of the possibility of self-incrimination and only realize it when the questions head right in that direction. A witness can usually assert this right at any time during the testimony.

Procedural Flaws

If the subpoena is procedurally flawed, this can be another object that may arise. For instance, rather than through the mail, a subpoena may be required to be served on a witness in person. Also, many jurisdictions charge witness mileage costs and fees. If unaccompanied by the requisite fee, the subpoena may be considered flawed.

Other Objections

There may be other objections that can be found basing on the factual circumstances. For example, the subpoena may call the need for the witness to be subjected to undue burden or expense. Moreover, if it asks for confidential information or information, not in the possession, custody, or control of the witness, the subpoena may be rejected.

3. Presentation Of Objections

An attorney can aid in the presentation of a written series of objections to the issued subpoena. Usually, this is in the form of a motion to modify or entirely reject the subpoena. This should be submitted before the date you are expected to comply, which may be within two weeks. This motion simply asks the court not to require the witness to provide evidence or testimony or just limit the scope of it.

4. Compliance

If there aren’t any objections to any of the aspects found in the subpoena, then one is obliged to comply with the conditions and requirements as stated. It is expected of the receiver to comply because if not, he or she will automatically be receiving punishment such as monetary sanctions and even imprisonment.


It is of utmost importance that one immediately responds to a writ issued by a government agency. One should not brush off such matters as serious as these. In addition, don’t let yourself get carried away by fear or anxiety.

It is essential that you retain your composure so that you will have a clear mind to be able to address and perform what must be accomplished properly. If you haven’t done anything wrong, then what’s there to be worried about.

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