Receiving a subpoena can come as a surprise, especially if it’s dealing with a legal case that you’re not otherwise involved in. To avoid any legal problems for failing to comply with a subpoena, it’s important to understand what it is and what you need to do if you receive one.
What Is a Subpoena in Texas?
A subpoena is a court order that requires you to either testify at a trial or deposition or provide certain documents or other evidence. The lawyers might ask you to give both evidence and testimony. The subpoena document you receive will need to follow certain requirements and cover certain details. These include:
- The court and case number for the case.
- The issue date for the subpoena.
- Your name.
- The name and signature of the person who issued the subpoena.
- What you’re being ordered to do.
- The date, time, and place where you should appear.
The subpoena should be in the name of the state of Texas and inform you that failure to comply could mean a contempt of court charge. These requirements ensure that you will comply with the order. You can also find any additional information about the case that you need.
Can Attorneys Issue a Subpoena in Texas?
Yes, an attorney like Stephen Bowling who is admitted to practice law in the state of Texas can issue a subpoena. The clerk of the relevant court for the case can also issue them. However, other parties might be involved in serving the subpoena. Service is the process where someone delivers the order to you, gets your signature acknowledging the receipt, and filing of your signature with the State Office of Administrative Hearings. The person serving your order could be a Texas sheriff or anyone who is at least 18 years old and not involved in the case.
What Is the Difference Between a Subpoena and a Summons?
A summons is an official notification someone would need to provide if they sued you. The summons notifies the defendant that they’ve filed the lawsuit so that they can begin to prepare their defense. Unlike a subpoena, only a sheriff or a certified process server can serve a summons, or sometimes certified mail is possible. People who receive subpoenas might be witnesses who aren’t otherwise involved in the case, while a summons informs someone that they’ve become a party in a lawsuit.
How Many Days Before Trial Must a Person Be Served?
A court can’t send you a subpoena at the last minute. You need to receive the subpoena at least five days before the trial where you need to appear. If the court orders you to provide documents or other evidence, you need to be given reasonable time to comply. The time frame considered reasonable will vary depending on the number of documents you must provide and how complicated it is for you to access and organize them.
What Will Happen If You Receive a Subpoena?
Once you’ve received the order, it’s your responsibility to either comply or provide a valid objection. Even if you plan to comply with the subpoena, it’s a good idea to talk to an attorney to make sure the order is valid and that you’re fulfilling your legal obligation. This can prevent problems in the future. If you received a reasonable subpoena, your next step is either turning over the requested documents or appearing in court.
If you aren’t comfortable complying, you have the option to either file an objection or a motion to quash or modify the subpoena. A motion to quash asks the court to declare the subpoena invalid. Contesting the order makes the process more complex, so it’s especially important to work with a civil or criminal attorney such as Stephen Bowling, the DWI man. Depending on the problem, you can object based on either the format of the subpoena or what it is asking for. Format objections can be as straightforward as pointing out a missing signature or incorrect date. You may also object based on the location where you’re supposed to appear. Texas doesn’t allow courts to require witnesses to travel more than 150 miles to comply with a subpoena.
You can also object to a subpoena based on the substance of what the subpoena is asking for. If the request is too broad, irrelevant to the case, or asking for privileged information, it might be invalid. You can also object based on an unreasonable invasion of your privacy, a request that includes proprietary business information or on the grounds that the other party could more easily get the same evidence from somewhere else. Some of these objections might lead the court to modify the subpoena rather than dismissing it entirely. For example, if you objected because the subpoena was too broad, it might be reissued with a narrower, more specific document request.
Can You Refuse a Subpoena?
Failing to comply with a subpoena can have serious legal consequences. Subpoenas are court orders, so you must cooperate if you receive one. Otherwise, you could be charged with contempt of court. In Texas, the fine is up to $500 in a felony case or $100 in a misdemeanor case. The authorities can also arrest you. Depending on the situation, a judge might put you in jail until you agree to testify or sentence you to up to six months of jail time. If you think your subpoena is unreasonable, don’t ignore it. Hire an attorney and follow the proper legal process to object or move to quash the subpoena.
If you have received a subpoena, you’re probably feeling overwhelmed and unsure of what to do. Whether you need guidance during the process of giving your testimony or someone to file a motion to quash on your behalf, you’ll benefit from working with an experienced attorney. If you have to appear in court, contact an attorney right away.