I received a subpoena to either appear in court or for a deposition or to produce documents. Do I have to comply?

A subpoena is an order that you be at a certain place at a certain time to provide either testimony or documents or specific evidence to the person or entity requesting it. Assuming you obey the subpoena, you will not be in any trouble at all. However, failure to obey a lawfully served subpoena can subject you to a contempt proceeding in front of the judge. At that hearing, the judge will determine if you willfully violated the subpoena and, if so, what your punishment will be. You face up to 5 months and 29 days in jail for failure to obey a subpoena.

If you do not want to obey the subpoena, you should consider speaking with a lawyer. The lawyer may not be able to do anything for you. But sometimes the subpoena was not properly served. Other times the lawyer may be able to save you the appearance by simply speaking with the lawyer who issued you the subpoena. And, occasionally, there may be a legal privilege you could assert so that you do not have to testify.

It’s also very important to speak with an attorney if there is any possibility your appearance will subject you to criminal liability. You have the right to remain silent, and if speaking opens the possibility of your arrest and prosecution, you should use it. A board certified criminal trial lawyer could help you determine whether you should exercise your rights.

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