Being requested to appear in court sounds like a scary thing. Depending on the circumstances, there may even be legitimate cause for fear.
But for those who receive a subpoena to testify, it’s generally nothing to be worried about. Still, you should know what you’re getting into.
What is a Subpoena?
A subpoena is a court-ordered request for either documents or a testimony relevant to a current case. Generally, it’s issued by an attorney who is trying to gather evidence and support for their client. If you receive a subpoena, you’ll either be asked to appear in court or to release documents, information, etc. regarding a certain person/situation.
If you’re asked to testify, the process is fairly straightforward. Before you appear in court, you’ll likely meet with the lawyer who issued the subpoena. Once in court, you’ll be asked questions by both sides of the case.
Once this has been completed, you’ll most likely be free to go.
What if I Refuse a Subpoena?
Subpoena literally translates to “under penalty”. As you might guess from the name, refusing it usually isn’t a good idea. By refusing, you’ll likely be held in contempt of court, resulting in fines, jailtime, or both.
There are exceptions. Various privileges may get you out of being subpoenaed. For example, an attorney is protected from testifying against their client. A doctor is protected from testifying about a person’s private medical information. One spouse doesn’t have to testify about communication with the other spouse if it took place while they were married.
And lastly, you’re protected under the Fifth Amendment from testifying to self-incriminating evidence. If you decide to testify in court, you can still choose to invoke the fifth amendment for specific questions.
The prosecution also has the power to grant you immunity from self-incrimination. If they do that, you won’t be able to get out of questioning, but you also won’t have to worry about getting into trouble for anything you say.
A Subpoena is Not the Same as a Summons
You’ve likely see a movie or a TV show where a person is summoned to court by a server. There’s two characters who don’t know each. Character 1 approaches character 2 and asks if their name is such-and-such.
Upon confirming that is their name, Character 1 hands character 2 a piece of paper and informs them that they’ve been served and must appear in court.
Though there are obvious similarities between a summons and subpoena, they are entirely separate. A summons starts the case. If you’re summoned, it means you’re directly a part of it. For example, if you’re being sued or your spouse is divorcing you, you will be summoned to court.
If you refuse a summons, you will forfeit the case.
Subpoenas happen once the case is underway. If you can provide a relevant testimony or evidence in an ongoing case, you’ll receive a subpoena. With a subpoena, you’re not being charged. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still seek legal guidance.
Talk to a Lawyer
Though the case might not involve you directly, testifying in court can have repercussions. To determine the best course of action, you should consult a lawyer after receiving a subpoena. They will be able to guide you on what to do next, making sure you’re protected.
For an experienced attorney in Springfield, Ohio, contact the team at Michael T. Edwards. We’ll ensure you make the proper legal decisions.