What is a Subpoena?

A subpoena is a written court document that compels you to attend Court.  It is a little piece of paper, with a lot of power!  Within the criminal justice system, generally, you will be subpoenaed to Court if you were a witness to a crime. But what does it mean to be served a subpoena? What if you don’t want to go to Court?  What if you didn’t actually witness anything?

These are all important questions that a lawyer can help you understand depending on the specific circumstances surrounding your subpoena. Here is some basic information you should know if you have been subpoenaed:

1. Do I have to go to Court?

Yes. A subpoena legally compels you to attend Court at the time and place indicated on the document.  If you are not able to attend Court for a specific reason, you should immediately contact the entity that issued the subpoena.

In rare circumstances the Court may be able to adjust the schedule so that your evidence can be heard at a different time.

2. I don’t want to go to Court!  What happens if I don’t show up?

If you do not attend Court, the Judge can have a witness warrant issued in order to secure your attendance at Court.  This means that the police can come to your home, arrest you, and bring you to Court. In extreme cases a witness could be held in jail until they are required to testify.

3. I was subpoenaed for a criminal trial, but I didn’t see anything!

If you were subpoenaed for a criminal trial, but you do not believe you have any relevant evidence to provide, you should contact a lawyer.  A lawyer can help you determine your options as to how to proceed.  In some cases you may wish to provide the information to the parties involved.

If you have received a subpoena and you have questions, discussing your concerns with a lawyer is the easiest way to ensure you abide by your legal obligations.

Please note that this article is meant to provide information only and is not intended to confer legal advice or opinion. If you have any further questions please consult a lawyer. Please note as well that many of the statements are general principles which may vary on a case by case basis