Posted by: Apr 22, 2020

What to Do When You're Served a Subpoena

Being served a subpoena is usually nothing to panic about.

Businesses, professionals, and other individuals often have information that is pertinent to a lawsuit, whether it be documents or personal knowledge.

In most cases, getting served a subpoena does not pose a legal risk to you. You simply need to openly and honestly share the information you have.

Nevertheless, a subpoena is something to take seriously. You can’t just ignore it, and you need to comply with the timelines it sets. It is also important to remember that documents you produce and things you say can be used against you later.

If you have any concerns about how you or your business may be affected by a subpoena, consult with an experienced business attorney. An attorney can review your documents or discuss your testimony with you. They can help you protect your rights while ensuring that you comply with the law.

What Do I Have to Do If I Have Been Subpoenaed?

When being served with a subpoena, you will likely receive a request for testimony, a request for production of documents, or both. 

I’ve Been Subpoenaed to Testify

If you have knowledge of information relating to a lawsuit, you may be subpoenaed to testify. This may involve testifying in a deposition, at trial, or both.

The subpoena will specify the time and place you have to appear to give testimony.

I’ve Been Subpoenaed to Produce Documents

Subpoenas to produce documents are more common than subpoenas to testify. Many different types of documents may be relevant to a lawsuit, such as:

  • Account statements, 
  • Business records, 
  • Medical records, 
  • Notes,
  • Phone records, and
  • Emails.

The subpoena will specify the deadline by which you should provide the documents.

You can ask the individual requesting the documents to reimburse you for any costs (for example, the cost of copying).

How to Protect Your Interests After Getting Served a Subpoena

Don’t ever think you can simply ignore a subpoena. Even if you have a legitimate reason to avoid the subpoena, you need to respond and explain your position. If you ignore the subpoena, you can be held in contempt of court.

This does not mean that you don’t have recourse if you are concerned about complying with a subpoena. If there is a legal reason that would permit you to avoid testifying or providing documents, you can file a motion to quash the subpoena.

An attorney can help you identify any risks you may face and help you address any conflicts you may have.

Self-Incrimination

Every person has a constitutional right against self-incrimination. This means that the court can’t require you to answer questions if the answer might implicate you in a crime.

For example, if a business manager is called as a witness regarding illegal business practices and the manager participated in those practices, they cannot be forced to testify about their involvement.

Privilege

Another reason you might be concerned about testifying is if it would require you to reveal confidential information about a client. For example, a subpoena may ask a physician to release medical records when their client has not given permission to do so.

A court may still order you to comply, but there are steps you can take to protect yourself from violating your professional obligations.

Scheduling Conflicts

If you have a conflict with the date or time in the subpoena, you can contact whoever issued it—generally a judge, prosecutor, or attorney—and arrange to reschedule. If an attorney won’t cooperate with you, you may want to involve your own attorney to seek the court’s help.

Be sure to get any rescheduled date in writing. Particularly if you have been called to testify at trial, don’t assume that the court will postpone the trial for your testimony. Don’t ignore the court date unless you are sure the court has granted a continuance.

The Curley Law Firm Can Help You Respond to a Subpoena

A skilled Houston business attorney can help professionals and businesses comply with subpoenas and protect their interests. The Curley Law Firm has years of legal experience and can help you through the process of responding to a subpoena. Call or contact us online today to learn more about how we can help.