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Subpoena: What it Means to be Summoned

October 23, 2015 Hastings and Hastings

Receiving a subpoena can be a very scary thing. They are official court documents, signed by a judge, and affixed with the seal of the court. Plus, it has been sent to you. Right to your doorstep. They know about you, where you live, and who you are. Further, they want something from you. It may seem scary, but we encourage you to take a deep breath, there is nothing to worry about.

Why do Courts Send Subpoenas?

Courts send out subpoenas because they want to gather information. The direct Latin translation of the word subpoena translates as “under penalty.” In truth, this definition could still apply, as people who ignore subpoenas open themselves up to prosecution; however, courts prefer to define subpoenas as “witness summons.”

That is exactly what they do. If you have received a subpoena, you are likely a witness who has some information that either the prosecutors or defendants in a case need to hear. It is your civic duty to arrive at court and give them that information.

What to do When You Have Been Subpoenaed

The first thing you need to do when you have received a subpoena is to read the document very, very carefully. It should tell you where you need to go, when you need to go there, and provide you with information on the case you are being subpoenaed for. It should also provide you with the contact information of the party that issued the subpoena. If a prosecutor’s office wants to see you on the stand, you are going to want to be properly prepared. They can help you with that.

Other Evidence

Sometimes a subpoena will ask you to provide documents or other information, such as a tape recording, instead of calling on you to take the stand. You have to comply with this order. Ask Richard Nixon, failure to produce the documents or information called for in a subpoena usually doesn’t end well.