A subpoena is a court document ordering a person to provide testimony related to a specific subject. Subpoenas may be issued in civil and criminal cases.
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Why Is a Subpoena Issued?
The testimony of a witness can be a crucial part of a party’s case. The witness may provide details about the case that prove or disprove specific allegations. However, some witnesses may be reluctant to testify in a case.
A subpoena is a legal document that orders the witness to appear and answer questions related to the case. Ignoring a subpoena could result in a contempt of court charge. The judge could impose fines or jail time for ignoring a subpoena.
What Types of Subpoenas are Used in Criminal Cases?
Subpoenas may be used in any criminal case, including cases involving:
There are three basic types of subpoenas that might be used in a criminal court matter:
A witness subpoena requires a person to appear in court to testify about a case. The prosecution may issue a witness subpoena for individuals who witnessed a crime or have information that can help convict the person alleged of committing the crime.
The defense may issue witness subpoenas to compel a reluctant witness to answer questions that might result in a not guilty verdict. The witness may have information related to the person’s alibi. The witness may have information that could create reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime.
During a deposition, an attorney asks a person a series of questions related to the case. The person must answer these questions under oath. The attorney hopes to uncover additional evidence that can help his client avoid a guilty verdict or could result in a reduction in the criminal charges.
A court reporter records everything said during the deposition. The testimony is printed word-for-word. Because the person’s responses to questions are under oath, the deposition could be used against the person if they change their answers when testifying in court.
Subpoena Duces Tecum
A subpoena duces tecum is a demand for documents or other types of evidence. The subpoena compels a party to turn over copies of the evidence or documents to the other party. A subpoena duces tecum can help obtain evidence that could raise reasonable doubt or result in a dismissal of charges.
What Should I Do if I Receive a Subpoena?
Do not ignore the subpoena. Failure to comply with a subpoena can have serious legal consequences.
The subpoena should contain all the details necessary to comply. The document should tell you the date and time you are to appear to answer questions or provide testimony.
It should also tell you where you are to appear to provide testimony. The subpoena has the names of the parties involved in the case and who initiated the subpoena.
If you are unsure whether testifying could result in putting you at risk legally, talk to a criminal defense lawyer immediately. A lawyer advises you about your legal rights regarding the subpoena. The lawyer can work with you to formulate appropriate responses to questions that are truthful, but do not increase your legal exposure.
If the defendant in the case or another witness tries to blame you for the crime or accuses you of being an accessory to the crime, you already have an attorney. Your attorney already understands the situation and can act quickly to protect your best interests.
How Are Subpoenas Served?
According to Kentucky Rules of Criminal Procedure, any officer is authorized to serve a summons. It may also be served by someone who is at least 18 years of age. The person serving the subpoena must complete an affidavit of service, or the person being served must sign an acknowledgment of service.
The service is made by hand-delivering a copy of the subpoena to the person or offering to deliver a copy of the subpoena to the person. Failing to serve a subpoena correctly could invalidate the subpoena.
Can I Get Out of a Subpoena in a Kentucky Criminal Case?
If you do not want to testify at trial or be deposed, you can object to the subpoena. It is best to contact a lawyer to discuss whether you have sufficient grounds for objecting to a subpoena. For example, not receiving compensation for expenses related to appear at trial or a deposition is not grounds for failing to appear.
You must file an objection to the subpoena by a certain deadline, so do not delay contacting a lawyer for advice.
Some reasons that might be valid for objecting to a subpoena include, but are not limited to:
- Complying with the subpoena creates an undue burden
- The location for the testimony is in another jurisdiction that is far away from your home or work
- The information requested by the subpoena is protected or confidential
- The subpoena was issued improperly or served incorrectly
Being nervous about testifying or merely not wanting to “be involved” in the case are not sufficient grounds for suppressing (canceling) a subpoena.
Protecting Your Legal Rights and Best Interests in a Criminal Proceeding
Whether you are charged with a crime or you are a witness in a criminal case, you must protect your legal rights and best interests.
Things to keep in mind if you receive a subpoena in a criminal case include:
- Read the entire subpoena and make sure you understand when, where, and what the subpoena is requesting.
- Contact a criminal defense lawyer and have him review the subpoena to ensure it is legally binding and was served correctly.
- Do not discuss the case with anyone other than a lawyer. Discussing the case with another party could result in that party becoming a witness in the case.
- If you believe you could be in danger because you are a witness, contact an attorney or notify the court immediately.
- Discuss the potential for incriminating yourself with your attorney. You can only assert your Fifth Amendment privilege if the testimony incriminates you. The Fifth Amendment does not apply to incriminating someone else.
It is best to act sooner rather than later regarding a subpoena. The longer you wait to respond to a subpoena, the less chance you might have of protecting your best interests.
Contact a Louisville Criminal Defense Lawyer for a Free Consultation
If you are charged with a crime or you are a witness to a crime, having experienced legal counsel is in your best interest. Talking to the police or a prosecutor without legal counsel could make it more difficult for you to defend yourself against criminal charges. The things you say could give the state more evidence to use against you at trial.
Contact our office to schedule a free consultation with an experienced Louisville criminal defense lawyer.