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Failing to Answer a Subpoena

When a court requires the presence of a person, whether he or she is a witness or a defendant, it will send a subpoena to the individual in question. Recipients are required to take action within a certain period of time or risk serious consequences, including being held in contempt, being sentenced to jail, or being fined, so if a subpoena was issued to you, you should speak with an experienced federal crime attorney as soon as possible about what you should do next.

Subpoena Requirements

Subpoenas can require recipients to do any of the following at a certain time and place:

  • Attend and testify in court or at a deposition;
  • Produce designated documents, electronically stored information, or tangible items in the person’s possession, control, or custody as directed; or
  • Permit inspection of their premises.

If the subpoena commands the production of documents or the inspection of their premises before trial, then a notice and copy of the subpoena must be served on each party before the subpoena itself is delivered. Subpoenas can be served in a number of ways, including by:

  • Hand-delivery;
  • Email;
  • Certified mail; and
  • Reading.

In the event that the recipient of the subpoena objects to an inspection of his or her premises or the production of documents or tangible items, he or she must serve the objection within two weeks of receiving it. Otherwise, recipients of subpoenas must obey them or risk being fined or held in contempt of court.

Under the Federal Rules of Procedure, the recipient of a subpoena who is a non-party can only be compelled to testify at a trial if it wouldn’t cause the individual to incur substantial expense. Similarly, non-party individuals can only be required to appear in court or at a deposition to testify if they are within 100 miles of the court.


Subpoenas are court-ordered commands, so those who fail to obey them are subject to civil or criminal contempt of court charges. Civil contempt involves knowingly failing to produce documents as requested, or failing to obey the terms of a subpoena. Penalties include payment of a fine, imprisonment, and in some cases, both. Contempt charges often remain in place until the party in question agrees to comply with the court’s request. In some cases, the recipient of a subpoena can avoid penalties for failing to comply with a subpoena if he or she can prove that the information requested is privileged or lost, or that producing it would involve self-incrimination or is unduly burdensome.

Call Today to Speak with an Experienced Federal Crime Lawyer

To speak with dedicated federal crime attorney Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A. about your own subpoena-related questions or concerns, please call us at (305) 670-9919 or send us an online message with a brief description of your case. A member of our legal team is standing by and eager to help you through each step of your case. And remember, initial consultations are conducted free of charge, so don’t hesitate to call!

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