I Have Just Received a Subpoena to Testify in Court in Ohio. What Do I Do Next?
What is a subpoena?
A subpoena is an action or a document that requires an individual to appear as a witness or to produce evidence to the court.
Subpoenas are issued in both civil and criminal matters. In a civil proceeding, the parties to the case are usually individuals and/or businesses who are engaged in a lawsuit. In criminal cases, the parties are the state and a person or persons charged with committing a crime. The subpoena is issued to someone who is not a party to the case, but who can give valuable testimony in some form.
If you have been served a subpoena, a lawyer can help determine what to do next.
What does it mean to be "served" a subpoena?
When a person receives a subpoena, we say he or she has been "served" a subpoena. If a subpoena has been delivered to you either in person, or via mail, or it has been read aloud to you, or even if it has been left with someone at your home, then you have been officially served and may have to respond. If you have not been part of the legal system before, this may seem like an intimidating request. There is usually nothing to fear, but some action is required on your part. The subpoena will indicate the date, time and place you are expected to appear, and what will be expected of you at the time of your appearance in court. You will either be asked to give oral testimony about your knowledge of the facts in the case, or you will be asked to provide documents or other records that are related to the case.
OK, I've been served. Now what do I do?
First let me stress what not to do - do not ignore the subpoena. In most cases, a subpoena comes as no surprise, but sometimes a person is served a subpoena who was not expecting it. It can be tempting to glance at the document, and, not understanding it, set it aside or ignore it. However, failure to respond may cause you unnecessary legal headaches, and could lead to charges being brought against you, resulting in fines or even jail time. If you do not understand the subpoena or its demands, contact a lawyer immediately. In some cases, it may make sense to hire a lawyer who can represent you and help you prepare the needed information, testimony, or documents, or perhaps even fight the subpoena.
What if I don't have information that is being requested of me?
You may think at first glance that you cannot provide the information the subpoena is requesting. It is still necessary to respond to the subpoena in some fashion. You should not simply ignore it.
What if I have a conflict and cannot make the Court date?
If you have a conflict of some kind, contact an attorney. We can help you determine the best way to approach the court.
What if the testimony the Court is asking for would likely incriminate me?
Call us. Everything you share with us is held in strict confidentiality and is protected by law under the attorney-client privilege. You may be entitled to invoke your Fifth Amendment privilege to remain silent. However, you will still need to respond to the Court, and we can help you with that.
Call Jim to find out how to protect your legal rights.
Article submitted by Jim Dearie.
James A. Dearie has been a practicing attorney since 1993. He has represented clients in civil, criminal, and traffic cases at all levels of the Ohio court system, including the Ohio Supreme Court. He is an active member of the Ohio State Bar Association, the Warren County Bar Association, and the Ohio Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Read Jim's profile here.
Dearie, Fischer & Mathews can help you respond to or fight a subpoena.
Dearie, Fischer & Mathews LLC
In Lebanon or the greater Cincinnati area, call 513-696-6765.
In Beavercreek or the greater Dayton area, call 513-696-6765.
Serving Warren County, Butler County, Montgomery County, Greene County, and all of Southwest Ohio.