I recently had a client call me and say that he received “something about some kind of court date at the Federal Grand Jury”. I asked him, “so what did you do with this document?”. He responded, “I put it in my stack of papers that I need to read”. I then responded with some urgency, “can you please find it and send it to me as soon as possible”. He did. Sure enough, it was a subpoena for him to appear at the Federal Grand Jury in just two days. So what exactly is a subpoena? A subpoena is a writ (fancy lawyer word for a court order) issued to a person or an entity (another lawyer word), such as a corporation or a business, to appear in court to provide either sworn testimony, or documents sought by the issuer of the subpoena. In both civil and criminal cases, each side has the power to issue subpoenas, typically for witness testimony or documents needed. Failure to comply with a subpoena can result in a contempt of court sanction, like a fine, or even arrest. The morale of the story is to never ignore a subpoena if you receive one, but instead consult a lawyer for advice.
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