I Was Served With a Subpoena: Now What?

By Dave Mueller, Criminal Defense Attorney

Receiving a witness subpoena, which usually includes words such as “you are hereby commanded to appear,” can be a scary moment for those who are not used to appearing in court. Most people are not accustomed to being “commanded” to do anything, and it can be easy to assume that the receipt of a subpoena means that one has done something wrong. Many people subpoenaed may feel reluctant to “get involved” or feel they may end up in some sort of trouble if they say the wrong thing.

But in reality, subpoenas in all manner of court cases are often served on people who did nothing more than witness some small part of a case. Receipt of a subpoena means that an attorney has deemed that you may have some sort of information material to their case and as such, you are required to appear before the court to provide testimony.

It is important to note that required means required. If a subpoena is properly served, it cannot be ignored and there are few reasons that will excuse your appearance in court. The subpoena is a court order that requires you to appear and offer truthful testimony. Failure to do so could subject you to contempt proceedings. In some drastic cases, failure to appear in Pennsylvania could even result in the issuance of a “material witness warrant,” which allows the court to put a reluctant witness in jail until testimony can be given.

There are valid reasons to contact an attorney immediately if you have concerns about testifying. If you fear that truthful testimony may somehow incriminate you, an attorney can advise you as to how and when you can assert your right against self-incrimination. In some cases, the testimony being sought from you may be subject to a privilege, such as communication between spouses or between a doctor and a patient. Even as a witness, you have valid rights in any legal proceeding, but only an experienced attorney can advise you on how those rights apply and, if necessary, how to assert them in an appropriate way.

The bottom line is this: if you are subpoenaed, you will likely be required to testify—fully and honestly. If you are in receipt of a subpoena and have any concerns about your ability or your willingness to respond to it, those concerns should be discussed with an experienced attorney immediately. Contact us today for a no-charge consultation.

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