Have you recently been served with a subpoena? Do you know what it is and how it works?
Sometimes, being served with a subpoena is something you will know about beforehand.
If you have been asked to testify on behalf of a loved one or acquaintance, or you are a neutral party willing to do your part as a witness, receiving a summons to appear in court won’t be a stressful situation.
There are other times when it may seem very stressful. For example, asking to be a witness in court is a stressful situation.
You don’t want to incriminate someone close to you, or maybe you are afraid of the repercussions of testifying on behalf of the other side.
What should you do when you have received a subpoena to testify for the other side?
What is a Subpoena?
The term subpoena means “under penalty.”
There are two types of subpoenas:
- A subpoena ad testificandum, which is a summons to testify in court.
- A subpoena duces tecum, which is a writ compelling you to produce documentation.
If you have been following the news, this is the type of subpoena that has been submitted to the White House over President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. Impeachment investigators want the White House to hand over “a vast range” of documents.
In more typical court cases, subpoenas will be issued for things like:
- Income tax returns
- Employee records
- DNA samples
- Computer files
- Blood test information
- Medical records
In addition, an attorney may subpoena a witness to get him to testify on behalf of the client in court or to give a deposition.
How is a Subpoena Served?
For anyone familiar with the term subpoena through legal drama shows, you might be under the impression that a subpoena is a piece of paper that gets slammed down on a desk by the lead investigator of some horrible crime, or by the District Attorney herself with a triumphant look in her eye.
In reality, a subpoena is usually served through the mail and issued by a court clerk, a justice of the peace, or a notary public at the request of an attorney.
What Will Happen if I Refuse a Subpoena?
Simply put, you may end up in jail or with hefty fines for refusing to appear in court to testify.
This is what famously happened to Greg Anderson, Barry Bond’s childhood friend when he repeatedly refused to testify against Bond in the witness stand.
If you don’t show up or provide documentation when asked, you could be charged with contempt of court.
Are There Any Situations When I Can Legally Refuse a Subpoena?
There are few legal reasons to challenge a subpoena.
One is privilege – attorney-client privilege, doctor-patient privilege, and spousal privilege.
The law protects you from having to produce incriminating evidence against someone in these legally protected relationships.
Fifth-amendment protections cover any information that would self-incriminating against the demands of a subpoena.
However, when the prosecution offers you immunity for your testimony, your fifth-amendment rights will not protect you from the summons of a subpoena.
Additionally, there are some other instances when the court may recognize it is an unfair burden on you to have to respond to the subpoena.
Michigan Criminal Lawyer
Do you need the assistance of a lawyer if you have been served with a subpoena?
Yes, you may need a lawyer to help you file a written objection or to explain your options:
- If you feel you have legal reasons to refuse a subpoena.
- Or you want to review your options after you have been served,
However, if you simply do not show up or provide the requested documentation, you could face fines, jail time, or both.
If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges in Michigan, call my office today.