Understanding What a Subpoena Is

If you have been subpoenaed and you don’t know what that means, then fear not, as this article will go through the definitions, origins, purpose, and general questions that you may have in regards to a subpoena. It can be overwhelming receiving one, however, you must proceed with caution. Take the time to know what are the best next steps for you to take, as you could be facing legal repercussions. Trust us, you’ll be glad you did if you or a loved one ever receive one of these legal summons.

What Is A Subpoena?

A subpoena is a formal written court order that requires an individual to attend court to testify, and the production of documents. Often these are delivered through email, delivery, or certified mail. It entails the date and time when the individual is needed to attend court. You cannot ignore one as it is a court order. If you choose to ignore one, you will face further legal implications. 

All subpoenas will have the following details:

  • Date, time, and the location of the court the individual needs to attend.
  • A case number, and/or the origin of the case
  • An explanation as to why the individual is needed to appear in court. If you are not needed to appear in court, it will clearly state what is needed from you, for example, to send in documents. 

What Does A Subpoena investigate?

There is a multitude of offenses that a subpoena can be used to investigate. Common examples include bank fraud, cybercrimes, Identity theft, organized crime, corruption, terrorism, and many, many more. If you are unsure about what your Subpoena intends to investigate, find a defense lawyer who can help you understand what is expected of you and what is to come.  

How Does A Subpoena Work?

It is important to know how you are being treated in regards to a Subpoena. The professionals at the FBI subpoena summarise the three ways in which you may be treated as. These are, as a witness, suspect, or target. How you are being treated, will depend on how you should move forward as each situation will benefit from a tailored response. 

Additionally, there are three different types of subpoena. These are the following; firstly, there is the ‘Witness Subpoena’, which is an order that requires you to appear in court and testify as a witness. The second is a subpoena duces tecum. This kind requires you to produce/ send in documents that will be used as evidence. Thirdly, there is the deposition subpoena, this requires a third party individual to give copies of documents. 

How Do I Respond?

Once you have received a subpoena, you can proceed in two ways, by complying or objecting.

By complying, you will have agreed to provide the documents required of you or to attend court as and when you are needed. It’s advisable to write a Declaration of Compliance of Subpoena so that you have a record of what you have delivered to the relevant parties. Before responding to your subpoena, even if you are complying, you should still seek out the appropriate legal assistance, as you do not want to act too hastily and somehow end up incriminating yourself 

If you are considering objecting to a subpoena, you should first seek legal advice and conduct some research online. Websites such as provide tips on where and how to find the right help. Objecting to a subpoena is serious business and can lead to legal punishment if done incorrectly. Having a lawyer is a wise move as they can file for an objection on your behalf. 

If you are wondering on what grounds you can object to a Subpoena, these typically include the following:

  • Pleading the Fifth – you may do this if you think supplying evidence will lead to self-incrimination. 
  • Non-Custody – this applies if you no longer have the documents that are being requested. 
  • Confidentiality – If the requested documents are confidential and you can prove that, then you can object on those grounds. 
  • Procedural Errors: This one can be a bit murky, but essentially if the subpoena was not given to you properly, or did not fit the usual protocol, then you can object. 

However, you choose to respond to your subpoena, the first thing to do before this is to get yourself an experienced defense lawyer, who can advise you correctly on how to respond and move forward. 

What Happens If I Don’t Reply To A Subpoena?

If you wish to object to your subpoena then see above for the reasons that can allow for that. Flat out ignoring your subpoena should not be an option. Not responding or refusing to comply with a subpoena can have significant legal implications. While it cannot be used as a form of proving the individual guilty, it will certainly not help your case. There are several risks associated with a failure to comply, the best course of action to take is to seek out former FBI agents, or defense lawyers. 

Next Steps

Receiving a subpoena can be a little nerve-racking, however, the best thing you can do is stay calm and be efficient in how you decide to move forward.  All in all, whatever the reason you have received a subpoena, it will need a specific defense strategy and you should seek legal advice immediately. Whether you are required as a witness, suspect, or target, you must seek legal advice so that you can properly ensure your protection.

Aside from this, there are a couple of key takeaways to finalize your understanding of a subpoena. Remember, a subpoena is a written legal order that will state what is required of you. During the evidence-gathering phase of a case, subpoenas are used to gather the facts, statements, and evidence that can be put towards a case. The subpoena must be served in the official protocol, which is usually an in-person delivery or mail. Finally, if you choose to ignore your subpoena, this could lead to further legal repercussions.