Subpoena Definition

Definition of Subpoena

A subpoena, in the legal context, is a formal and legally binding document issued by a court, government agency, or an attorney in a legal proceeding. It commands an individual or entity to produce documents, records, evidence, or testify as a witness in a legal case or investigation. Subpoenas play a crucial role in the legal process by facilitating the collection of information, testimony, and evidence necessary for the resolution of legal disputes, investigations, and court proceedings. Failure to comply with a subpoena may result in legal consequences, including contempt of court charges.

Key elements and principles related to subpoenas include:

  • Issuing Authority: Subpoenas can be issued by various entities, including courts, administrative agencies, and attorneys. The issuing party must have the legal authority to compel compliance.
  • Compulsory Nature: Subpoenas are compulsory orders, and recipients are legally obligated to comply with their demands. This includes providing requested documents, records, or testifying as a witness.
  • Scope: Subpoenas specify the scope of the required information, documents, or testimony. They may be broad or narrow, depending on the needs of the legal case.
  • Witness Fees: Individuals who are subpoenaed to testify as witnesses are typically entitled to witness fees and reimbursement for reasonable expenses incurred in attending the deposition or court appearance.

Examples illustrating the use of subpoenas in legal contexts include:

  • Document Subpoenas: Attorneys may issue document subpoenas to compel the production of relevant documents, such as financial records, contracts, emails, or medical records, in civil litigation or investigations.
  • Deposition Subpoenas: Subpoenas for depositions require individuals to provide sworn testimony in a legal proceeding. Depositions are a critical part of pre-trial discovery in civil cases.
  • Grand Jury Subpoenas: Prosecutors may issue grand jury subpoenas to gather evidence or compel witnesses to testify before a grand jury in criminal investigations.
  • Subpoena Duces Tecum: This type of subpoena commands the production of documents, records, or tangible items for inspection, copying, or examination.

Subpoenas are essential tools in the legal system, as they enable parties to obtain relevant information and evidence to support their cases or investigations. They also serve to protect the rights of individuals involved, ensuring that their testimony or documents are collected in accordance with legal procedures and safeguards.

It’s important to note that individuals who receive a subpoena may have certain rights and legal protections. They may seek legal counsel to understand their obligations and options, including challenging the subpoena if they believe it is overly burdensome or violates their rights.

In summary, a subpoena is a formal and legally binding order issued by a court, government agency, or attorney that commands an individual or entity to produce documents, records, evidence, or testify in a legal case or investigation. Subpoenas are essential for gathering information and evidence in the legal process and must be complied with under penalty of law.


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