A subpoena, pronounced as sub·poe·na, is a legal order to appear in court to testify on a case. Some subpoenas may require you to produce documents or items in your possession during your court testimony. You must show up to your summons, or you can face arrest. 

Origins of the Term Subpoena

The term Subpoena was originally from the Latin Sub Poena. This translates to “Under Penalty.” The terms and use started in English Common Law, and the concept is now widely used as common law in most English law-based systems.

What Does a Subpoena Do?

A subpoena is typically requested by a lawyer and then issued by a judge. Next, it is served by an officer or by certified mail. The details outlined in the subpoena are specific and must be followed to the letter in order to avoid legal ramifications.

There are two types of subpoena, but both are used interchangeably by most people. These types are:

  • Subpoena ad testificandum. This type orders a person to testify before the courts or face arrest. 
  • Subpoena duces tecum. This type orders a person or organization to bring physical evidence before the courts or face arrest. 


Objections to a Subpoena

You can object to a subpoena if you follow the processes outlined in the legal regulations. If the subpoena was filed requesting information that is not pertinent to the case, you could file an objection. The courts also cannot subpoena records or testimony that is confidential or privileged. 


Subpoena Exceptions

There are a few exceptions to the requirement to testify. Being asked to testify under these circumstances below is against the law, and can be countered.


Fifth Amendment

This Amendment to The United States Constitution states that you can not be forced to testify if the testimony is incriminating against themselves. 

Spousal PrivilegeBlackman Bail Bonds What is a Subpoena to court

This ties in with the Fifth Amendment. The concept of “One Flesh” with legal marriage means that you are not required to testify against your spouse, except in cases of domestic or sexual violence. 

Patient Confidentiality

Doctors, therapists, and counselors are protected under patient confidentiality. A patient has a reasonable expectation of privacy and confidentiality to receive the best care, so a testimony can not be asked of a care specialist.  

Legal Counsel

A lawyer or attorney can not be required to testify against their client, even if they’re in possession of information that is relevant to the case. Client’s have a right to reasonable privacy and confidentiality when speaking with legal counsel. 

Diplomatic Immunity

Foreign diplomats have immunity and can not be required to testify in court. 

Incompetent Witness of Evidence

If a witness is deemed physically or mentally incapable of recalling the events in question or unable to reliably produce truthful and coherent statements, they can be excused from testimony. 

Inadmissible Evidence

If the evidence was illegally obtained, it is considered inadmissible. Therefore, it would be dismissed and unused. 

What if I Refuse to Testify?

Refusal to testify means you are defying a court order and can be arrested for Contempt of Court. If you find yourself in custody, the officers in the corrections facility will bring you to court in cuffs. You will have no option, but you will have access to a lawyer. 

Challenging a Subpoena

While you should comply with the terms of the subpoena to avoid legal complications, you can challenge the terms or renegotiate the terms with your legal counsel. You should still show up for court and discuss with a lawyer the changes in terms you’d like to see before you testify.

Contact Us 

If you should find yourself in jail for contempt of court on the basis of denying a subpoena, give us a call at Gibson Bail Bonds. We specialize in getting you out from behind bars while you await arraignment. You can learn more about the process and resources available to you on our blog.