What Is a Subpoena?
August 8, 2023 | Ahmed & Sukaram, Attorneys at Law
In the State of California, criminal defendants have the right to defend themselves and build a strong case in their favor. This process often involves the collection of crucial information from witnesses and procuring essential documents.
California law grants defendants the ability to issue subpoenas for this purpose. It’s helpful to understand the different types of subpoenas, how they’re used, and what happens if they are ignored.
What Is a Subpoena?
A subpoena is a formal, court-issued document that commands an individual’s presence in court or requires them to produce specific documents deemed necessary for certain proceedings. It acts as a powerful tool in both civil cases and criminal matters, like in a misdemeanor or felony case.
A witness subpoena, or a Subpoena Ad Testificandum, is an order from the court compelling a person to appear and testify in a particular proceeding. It requires their presence at the appointed date and time to provide testimony relevant to the case.
This type of subpoena is especially important when witnesses are unwilling or reluctant to participate in a defense, as access to vital information through a witness’s testimony can be the difference between a favorable or unfavorable outcome.
A subpoena is not to be taken lightly, as ignoring it could lead to contempt charges. In some cases, this can lead to fines and even jail time.
Subpoena Duces Tecum (SDT)
A subpoena duces tecum is a powerful tool utilized extensively by criminal defense lawyers in California. This type of subpoena mandates that a person or company disclose specific documents or records that may otherwise be unattainable.
The documents requested can either be provided in person during a court appearance or sent directly to the defense, depending on the court’s preference or requirements. If the person or company fails to comply with the SDT by the specified date, the court has the authority to impose fines and/or hold them in contempt.
Serving a Subpoena
Once a subpoena is issued, it must be properly served to the intended recipient for it to be legally binding. The process involves hand-delivering the document directly, ensuring the individual being served has received it.
It’s important to know that if you’re a defendant in a criminal case, serving your own subpoenas isn’t permissible—another person will need to do this. This is usually a peace officer – like a police officer or a sheriff.
A Witness Can Object to a Subpoena
If a witness wishes to object to a subpoena, the first step is for them to file a Request to Quash the Subpoena. They must provide legitimate reasons to back up the objections.
Common reasons for objections include the following:
Improper service could be one reason for an objection. If the rules of serving a subpoena aren’t meticulously followed, the witness may be able to successfully challenge it.
Disclosure of Confidential Information
Sometimes, subpoenas call upon witnesses to disclose sensitive information that’s privileged or confidential. This can also give rise to an objection.
A witness may also consider complying with the subpoena to be unduly burdensome or expensive. If complying puts them into unreasonable hardship – for example, due to traveling far distances or lost work hours – they may be able to get out of showing up to court.
Some requests within the subpoena could be unreasonably vague and ambiguous. Any demands failing to be clear and concise could be rejected.
An Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Defend You From Start to Finish
As you can see, subpoenas play a critical role in the criminal law process. If you have any questions or need assistance, we’re here for you. Contact Ahmed & Sukaram, Attorneys at Law, to schedule a free consultation with a trusted criminal defense attorney.
Contact Our Criminal Defense Law Firm of Ahmed & Sukaram, Attorneys at Law Today For Help.
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