You may be familiar with the word subpoena, but do you know your legal requirements to comply with a subpoena? Do you know how to respond to a subpoena issued by a court? Here’s what you need to know.
Understanding the Subpoena
Subpoenas are legal documents. They can be used in a civil case or a criminal case.
For example, you could receive a subpoena to testify in court regarding a child custody case. You could also receive a subpoena to testify as a witness in a case involving white-collar crimes.
There are many reasons why someone would receive a subpoena in cases involving
In short, a subpoena is a court order compelling someone to do something or appear in court. There are several different types of subpoenas used in court cases.
Types of Subpoenas Used in Criminal Cases
There are three types of subpoenas that you might see used in a criminal matter:
A witness subpoena is one of the most common types of subpoenas used in criminal cases. A witness may have vital information that is needed to obtain a conviction. On the other hand, a witness could have information that would prove the defendant did not commit the crime.
Some witnesses may be reluctant to testify in court. A subpoena requires a person to appear to testify in court. The prosecution or the defense attorney may ask the court to issue a subpoena to ensure that the witness appears at the court-ordered date and time.
Subpoena Duces Tecum
In some cases, the defense or prosecution might need documents to help prove their case. However, those documents are protected or the party refuses to produce documents.
A subpoena duces tecum orders a party to turn over copies of documents and other evidence to the requesting party. This type of subpoena can be crucial if a party has evidence that could result in a dismissal of the criminal charges.
Deposition subpoenas are used to compel testimony under oath from a party who has information relevant to a case. An attorney asks the person questions which must be answered under oath. A court reporter records everything that is said word-for-word and transcribes it into a written record.
Depositions can be valuable discovery tools to obtain information and evidence. Because the testimony is under oath, the record can be used in court to impeach a witness if the witness’s story changes during the trial.
How Are Subpoenas Served in Kentucky?
According to Kentucky Rules of Civil Procedure §45.03, a subpoena can be served in the same manner as a summons. Additionally, a subpoena may be served by a person over 18 years of age.
The subpoena may be served by personally delivering the subpoena to the party named in the subpoena. It can be served at any place within the state. The party may sign an acceptance of service, or the person serving the subpoena can sign a statement and file it with the court clerk stating the date and manner of service.
Incorrect service of a subpoena could render the subpoena void. It is crucial that an experienced process server or another person trained to serve legal documents handle the service to avoid problems.
What Should You Do if You Receive a Subpoena?
Read the entire subpoena to ensure you understand your obligations for complying with the order. The subpoena should include the names of the parties involved in the case, the court, and the case number. It should also tell you where to appear to provide testimony or how to provide requested documents or evidence.
Never ignore a subpoena. You could be held in contempt of court for failing to comply with a subpoena. If you are unsure what you should do, you can contact a lawyer to discuss your legal rights, obligations, and options for dealing with the subpoena.
Is There a Way to Get Out of Being a Witness in a Criminal Case?
If you receive a subpoena, you must appear in court to testify unless the court rescinds the subpoena. You can object to the subpoena, but you must do so quickly. An attorney can review the subpoena and discuss whether you have grounds for objecting.
There are some valid reasons why a court might release you from complying with a subpoena. For example, if the information sought is privileged or protected by law, you might not be required to testify without an additional order from the court. If the subpoena was served incorrectly or issued improperly, that could give you grounds for an objection.
If you are subpoenaed to provide testimony at a deposition, and it places an undue burden on you, the court might order the requesting party to make accommodations.
It is important to remember that your testimony could be key to the case for either party. If so, the judge may not rescind the subpoena without completing reasons that override the need for justice.
Can I Get Into Trouble While Testifying in a Criminal Case?
It can be frightening to receive a subpoena in a criminal case. You might be concerned that testifying could place you in danger or you could incriminate yourself. If you are concerned, contact a criminal defense lawyer to discuss your legal rights and how to protect yourself. Failure to comply for valid reasons could result in legal trouble.
You cannot assert the Fifth Amendment to avoid testifying at a criminal trial unless you will incriminate yourself by testifying. If the testimony incriminates another person, the Fifth Amendment protections do not apply.
If you fear for your life or safety if you testify, notify the prosecution and the court that issued the subpoena immediately. The court may take steps to protect your safety.
As with any legal matter, avoid talking to people about the case or the parties involved except for talking to an attorney. By talking to other people about the case, you could inadvertently make them witnesses.
It is always best to face a subpoena head-on. Waiting to deal with a subpoena could result in the loss of some of your options, such as objecting to the subpoena.
Call Our Lexington Criminal Defense Lawyers for a Free Consultation
You can get answers to your questions about a subpoena and other criminal matters. We answer your questions and explain the best way for you to deal with a criminal matter. You do not have to try to develop a strategy alone.
Contact our law firm today to schedule your free consultation with a Lexington criminal defense lawyer for legal advice regarding a subpoena or other criminal matter.