While most Americans may have some idea of what a subpoena means, suddenly having a court officer serve you one can be a startling experience. Instead of dealing with the anxiety and uncertainty surrounding a subpoena or court summons, it’s vital to understand what a subpoena entails and what your responsibilities are after receiving one.
What Is a Court Summons or Subpoena?
A subpoena or court summons is the sign of the beginning of a trial case. Some legal matter has escalated to the point that it must go to court. A court summons may relate to a civil or criminal case, and if a sheriff or court officer has delivered a subpoena to you then you have some connection to the case.
A subpoena is essentially a demand for the subject of the subpoena to provide the court with evidence in a case. Various individuals may receive subpoenas.
- The court may serve a debtor a subpoena if a creditor decided to take legal action for unpaid debts.
- A sheriff could deliver a subpoena to an individual accused of a crime or civil tort against another party.
- The court may issue subpoenas for service providers, employers, or other companies or organizations for essential records.
- A witness who offered a police statement be required to appear in court to verify his or her statement as sworn testimony.
- Victims or other persons of interest connected to a civil or criminal case may also receive subpoenas.
Although receiving a court summons may be jarring, it does not automatically mean you are in trouble. You may just have important information or access to information necessary for a particular case to proceed. The subpoena will include all the pertinent information for the subject, including the time, date, and location for a required court appearance. The subpoena will also include instructions for proper responses to the subpoena.
Do You Have to Go to Court?
Failure to appear in court when necessary can have severe consequences. For example, if you have been named a defendant in a small claims court case and fail to appear, the plaintiff may win the case by default and secure a summary judgment against you. The subpoena will include instructions to appropriately respond should you wish to contest the request for your appearance in court. Failure to properly reply within the allotted time may also result in a summary judgment against you.
In some cases, a subpoena may not require you to actually go to court in person but simply provide necessary information for the case to proceed. The subpoena will include all information relevant to your particular situation and instructions for obtaining more information or clarification about your obligations. If you cannot appear at the place and time requested or if you cannot provide the information requested in the subpoena, you must explain these issues to the court.
What Information Must You Answer?
A subpoena may or may not entail a request to appear or in court, or it may simply request specific information relevant to a case in progress. For example, if you provided the police with a statement about a car accident you witnessed on the way to work, you may receive a subpoena to offer sworn testimony and confirm your statement if the accident progressed to a lawsuit.
A personal injury attorney may not be necessary for small claims court matters, but if you have received a subpoena as a defendant or a person of interest in a serious case, it is advisable to consult with an attorney as soon as possible so you know how to appropriately respond.
Remember, the law requires you to respond to a subpoena in the requested manner, either by appearing in court at a specified time or producing required evidence for the case in progress. If you have any concern that your compliance with a subpoena could land you in trouble in the state of Colorado, speak with a knowledgeable Denver accident attorney at the Law Firm of Jeremy Rosenthal immediately.