If you’re ever find yourself in trouble with the police or FBI, you may receive a subpoena for business records or to testify. Typically, a Judge or Magistrate issues a subpoena after a request by a prosecutor. After the subpoena has been issued, it can be served in person or, in some cases, via email with return receipt requested or by U.S. certified mail to a recipient’s last known mailing address.
Receiving a subpoena usually means that the court wants you to attend a hearing or provide some documents or other items.
To protect your rights, it’s critical that you consult with an experienced attorney immediately if you receive a subpoena in the mail. What else do you need to know?
Types of Subpoenas
A subpoena is a court order that requires you to appear or produce documents, and criminal penalties may apply if you fail to comply with the terms of the subpoena.
There are two types of subpoenas. A subpoena ad testificandum requires that you appear to give testimony before a court or other official legal body. A subpoena duces tecum, on the other hand, requires that you provide documents or other evidence.
Subpoenas can be issued in either civil or criminal cases. You might receive a subpoena requesting evidence that can later be used against you in a criminal trial, so it’s important to work with qualified legal counsel. Attorney Michael J. Petro has decades of experience working with criminal defendants, responding to subpoenas, and protecting subpoena witness rights.
Subpoenas can include requests for evidence such as blood tests, DNA samples, medical records, income tax returns, photographs, audio recordings, videos and other items.
Do NOT Ignore a Subpoena
Responding to a subpoena is not optional, and you can be held in contempt of court if you fail to respond. However, it is advisable to consult with an attorney before you respond. Your criminal defense attorney can advise you on the proper response and on providing the minimum legally allowable information to ensure that your rights are protected.
Your attorney will assist you in determining exactly what is being requested and what you must provide. In general, you’re required to provide any requested documents or other materials that do not violate your right to avoid self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment.
Do not destroy any documents or other potential evidence after receiving a subpoena, or you may be subject to penalties for contempt of court.
Should You Testify if Subpoenaed?
If a subpoena you receive requires your testimony or presence in court, you will be required to respond to the subpoena. Whether you should testify depends, in large part, on the type of case and your role in the case.
In a criminal matter, it’s possible that your testimony could be used against you later. Your attorney can help you determine whether you are required to testify under your specific circumstances. Even as a witness to a case in which you are not incriminated, your testimony can be used against you at another time.
To ensure that you fully understand the consequences of giving testimony, it’s important to consult with an attorney.
Get the Right Information Before Responding to a Subpoena
If you receive a subpoena from the postal service, you should not ignore it. However, you also should not blindly comply or send documents or other materials without advice from an attorney.
Your attorney will need to review the subpoena to ensure that it is valid, to determine how long you have to respond, and to review and compile any documents or other materials requested. If documents or other types of evidence are sought, the subpoena must be sufficiently specific to make it clear what is required by the court
After a subpoena is served, your first action should be to contact an attorney. Michael J. Petro provides representation in a variety of criminal areas of the law, including white-collar crime, immigration matters, DUI and violent offenses. For a personal consultation, contact Attorney Michael Petro.