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#145 Subpoenas

mp3 #145 What is a Subpoena? (mp3 file)


A subpoena is a legal document issued by a court which requires you to appear in person to testify as a witness at a specified place and on a particular date and time. A subpoena can be used to require you to appear as a witness at a trial or hearing and can also be used to require you to testify at a deposition. A deposition is an informal proceeding, usually held at an attorney's office, were you will be asked questions about a particular case which you will be required to answer under oath. You can be subpoenaed as a witness for a trial or deposition even if you are not a party to the lawsuit in which you have been requested to testify. Subpoenas are usually delivered to you in person. Often times the person who delivers the subpoena is a uniformed officer, but any person over 18 years old can legally deliver a subpoena in California.

You can be subpoenaed to appear as a witness at a trial held in any California court and the only limitation is that you must be a California resident at the time the subpoena is served on you. For example, if you are a resident of California at the time the subpoena is served, and you live in San Franciso, you can be required to testify at a trial in Los·Angeles.

You can only be subpoenaed to testify as a witness at a deposition if the place where the deposition will be taken is located either in the county in which the lawsuit was filed and within 150 miles of your home or 75 miles from your home if your home is not in the county were the lawsuit was filed. In order to subpoena you to appear at someplace other than the two just mentioned, a court order must first be obtained.

A subpoena may also require you to bring papers, written documents or other physical objects with you when you testify in court or at a deposition. You will receive a paper which describes the things which you must bring with you, and this paper will be delivered to you along with the subpoena.

Whether you are subpoenaed to testify in court at a trial or at a deposition, you are entitled to receive witness fees of $35.00 for each day you are required to be present. You are also entitled to receive reimbursement for travel costs at $.20 per mile, round trip, for each day you are required to appear.

The subpoena contains information about when and where you must appear as a witness and also contains information about whom you should contact to obtain your witness and mileage fees. You should also contact the person identified in the subpoena if you have any questions. It is always a good idea to contact the person identified in the subpoena, even if you have already received witness and mileage fees, to make sure that the date, time and place stated in the subpoena are correct and that your appearance is still required. It is not uncommon for trial dates to be changed and you will want to make certain that the trial will take place as scheduled and that your testimony will be needed on that date and at the times specified in the subpoena. Because trials are often complicated proceedings, the person who has subpoenaed you may not know at the time the subpoena is delivered the exact date and time your testimony will be necessary. You can avoid the inconvenience of having to sit at court, waiting to be called as a witness, by contacting the person identified in the subpoena and requesting that you be notified by telephone of the exact date and time your testimony will be needed.

If you do not contact the person who has subpoenaed you and you fail to appear on the date and time and at the place specified in the subpoena, you can be held in contempt of court. The person who subpoenaed you may request the court to punish you by ordering you to pay that person $500.00. In addition, you may also have to pay any damages which may have been caused by your failure to obey the subpoena. The court can also issue a warrant for your arrest and have you placed in jail if you fail to appear as requested in the subpoena. If it will be impossible or extremely difficult for your to appear on the date or at the time required by the subpoena, you should contact the person identified in the subpoena and explain your problem. That person, who is generally an attorney, may be able to reschedule the deposition or arrange your courtroom testimony for a date and time that is convenient to you. You should remember, however,

that the person who subpoenaed you is not required to accommodate you, and unless it is impossible for you to appear, your failure to do so is punishable by contempt proceedings.

There are certain legal grounds upon which you can object to a subpoena. For example, if you were not a resident of California at the time you were served with the subpoena, you can object on that basis. If you believe you have any grounds for· objection to the subpoena, you should contact an attorney to help you prepare the appropriate legal documents which must be filed with the court. It is possible for you to prepare these documents on your own; however, because the objections to a subpoena involve legal technicalities, you should seek the advise of an attorney before you attempt to file any document in which you object to the subpoena. You should also contact your own attorney if it is absolutely impossible for you to appear at the date, time or place specified in the subpoena. Your own attorney will be able to advise you of the legal grounds, if any, upon which you may be excused.

If you have any further questions about subpoenas, you probably should contact an attorney.

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