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Legal Issues

What to do when you get a Subpoena - October 28, 2019

Nobody wants to be involved in a lawsuit. Not somebody else’s lawsuit and certainly not your own, but sometimes it happens. You could get a subpoena for a whole host of reasons: maybe you witnessed a crime, your employee or coworker is involved in a lawsuit, or maybe you have documents or information that is important to a case. But no matter the type, once you get the subpoena, you are going to be involved one way or another.

Step 1 - Don’t Ignore It!

So, what should you do when you get that subpoena? The first step should be obvious: Don’t ignore it! A subpoena is not going to go away if you ignore it, and you could be fined or held in contempt of court if you don’t respond.

Step 2 - Determine the Expectations

The next step is to figure out how you should respond. First, you will need to figure out what type of subpoena you received. There are several kinds of subpoenas; you could be called to:

  • testify at a deposition
  • appear at a hearing or trial
  • produce documents

It could be from state court or it could be from federal court. Every subpoena will instruct you on what you are expected to do and when.

Step 3 - Call Your Attorney

Now that you know what you’re looking at, and you know you need to do something, what should you do? Sometimes complying with the subpoena is as easy as showing up at a lawyer’s office and answering a few questions. But sometimes it’s not so easy, which is why reaching out to your attorney as soon as you receive a subpoena is a vital step. A lawyer can help you figure out what your obligations are as well as work to protect you and whatever information you may have.

Involving your attorney early can help to limit the scope of the subpoena, or even make it go away. Complying with a subpoena to produce documents, especially if the documents are confidential or privileged, or to testify at a trial might be expensive or burdensome to your business or personal life. Your lawyer can negotiate on your behalf to reduce the burden.

For example, they could negotiate a different time for your testimony or narrow the scope of documents you need to produce. Your lawyer can review requested documents beforehand and help you decide what needs to be produced and what you can withhold. And if necessary, your lawyer can request a protective order or quash the subpoena altogether.

Whether a protective order or a motion to quash is necessary is something you should discuss with your attorney. This is necessary if you are asked to produce documents that are confidential and privileged under state or federal law.

For example, medical providers are often subpoenaed to produce patient medical records. Whether you must produce those records or redact information is a complicated question that your attorney can help you answer. These issues can be tricky, and you should always consult a lawyer if you are asked to turn over medical files, certain types of employee records, and other privileged material.

Bottom Line

Subpoenas can be a headache, but they are a necessary part of our justice system. Davis Brown routinely handles these types of situations for clients. If you receive one, review it immediately and reach out to an attorney to help protect your interests.

Davis Brown Law Firm blogs, legal updates, and other content are for educational and informational purposes only. This is not legal advice and it does not create an attorney/client relationship between Davis Brown and readers. Each circumstance is different; readers should consult an attorney to understand how this content relates to their personal situation. You should not use Davis Brown blogs or content as a substitute for legal advice from a licensed attorney in your state. Reproduction of Davis Brown content without written consent is prohibited.