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What is a subpoena?

A subpoena is a legal piece of paper that summons a person to appear before the court or other legal proceedings. This legal command, sanctioned by the court, inherently compels an individual to take a specific action, whether that involves giving testimony or providing required documents or information that plays a critical role in confirming the inquired facts about an ongoing case.

The term "subpoena," quite literally meaning "under penalty," carries the weight of consequences. Any individual who happens to receive this summons but falls short of adhering to its directives may find themselves liable to penalties. These penalties can take the form of fines, imprisonment, or a combination of both.

Types of Subpoena

  • A witness subpoena stands as a legal mandate, directing an individual to make an appearance in court on a specific date and provide testimony as a witness.

  • A subpoena duces tecum sets as a court-issued command that calls upon the individual being subpoenaed to present evidence, such as documents or records, at a designated time and location during a court proceeding. This occurrence usually takes place within the context of the pre-trial discovery phase.

  • A testimony subpoena takes the form of a court order that makes a third party, someone not directly involved in the lawsuit, to provide copies of records and/or participate in a statement. During this testament, they are asked questions by one of the parties embroiled in the legal dispute. This mechanism ensures that relevant information can be extracted from external sources in the process of the lawsuit.