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What is a Subpoena?

What is a Subpoena?

What is a Subpoena? 150 150 CMZ Law Lufkin/Houston

A subpoena is a formal demand to appear in court, appear for a deposition, or provide documents. It is an order of the court that must be followed. Failure to adhere to the requirements of a subpoena may result in a civil contempt of court proceeding, which is both time-consuming and may result in fines.

If you read the subpoena carefully, it should provide all of the instructions and information you need to comply. However, rules governing subpoenas will vary slightly depending on whether the subpoena is issued from state or federal court or civil or criminal court.

The Purpose of a Subpoena

Most subpoenas for documents or depositions are issued for purposes of discovery. This type of subpoena is primarily an effort to gather information or materials. The attorney or party is attempting to determine what kind of data you have that may be valuable to his or her case.

Subpoenas that ask for documents are commonly referred to as “subpoena duces tecum.” Subpoenas that request sworn testimony are called “subpoena and testificandum.” A subpoena can also request both types of information as well. In a subpoena that only seeks documents, there is no need to appear at the time and place specified; you can produce the materials ahead of time in lieu of appearing.

The other type of subpoena is for trial purposes. This kind of subpoena involves commanding a witness to appear and testify at trial.

The Scope of a Subpoena

In a state court, a subpoena can only reach witnesses that are within 150 miles of where the witness resides or was served if the subpoena is attempting to obtain documents or deposition testimony. That means that a witness can only be compelled to travel 150 miles to be deposed or provide materials. However, if the subpoena is trying to force someone to attend trial, the subpoena is effective within 150 miles of the county in which the trial will take place. That is, if the witness lives or was served within 150 miles of the trial county, it will still be effective.

Federal subpoenas have a much wider range. They are effective within the entire district of the federal court or within 100 miles of the place of the deposition. There are also additional geographic locations that apply if the subpoena is applicable in another state or if the court authorizes special service.

Who Can Issue a Subpoena?

If you are in Texas state court, three entities or individuals can issue subpoenas:

  • A court clerk
  • An attorney who is authorized to practice in Texas
  • Deposition officer who is permitted to take depositions in Texas

In federal court, the district clerk will provide a blank subpoena, and the party who is requesting the subpoena will complete the form.

What Should I Do if I Receive a Subpoena?

If you receive a subpoena, read it carefully. You may also want to contact an attorney to help you decide what you should and should not produce. If you have reasons that you do not want to or cannot appear for a deposition or trial, you may need to fight the subpoena. An experienced litigator can help you with the process. Contact Chandler, Mathis, Zivley for more information.