First of all, being served with a subpoena is not the same as being served with a summons; however, failure to comply in either situation will put you in contempt of court, which carries fines, possible jail time, or both. In either instance, you must swear to tell the truth and testify to the best of your ability.

A summons is a demand to appear in court because someone is suing you. It must be served by the sheriff or a licensed private detective. In some cases, a summons can be served by certified mail. Failure to comply with a summons and appear in court results in the other side winning by default, and puts you in contempt of court.

A subpoena is a demand for evidence or testimony on a case that may or may not involve you. It can be your testimony of past events, or documents and/or records you have that are related to the case. Both a summons and a subpoena can be either for a civil or criminal case.

Once a subpoena is issued by the court, however, it can be served by almost anyone as long as it is done properly. Because the court is asking for your participation in a civil or criminal case, you may be paid a fee. The amount depends on various factors, such as distance you have to travel, whether you have to stay overnight, etc.

You can be subpoenaed for specific information in a case you are already involved in. For example, in a child custody case, you may be subpoenaed for DNA samples, medical records, income tax returns, or computer files.

While it may be disconcerting to receive a summons or a subpoena, don’t panic. There are time limits in which to respond, however. You should immediately speak with your attorney, who can review and discuss your testimony and advise you about the consequences.

You should know that you have a constitutional right that protects you from giving evidence or testimony which will incriminate you. However, you must never destroy any evidence that is related to the case. Let your attorney decide what to do with the evidence you have. He or she will advise you and represent you in court, if necessary.

If you receive a subpoena or a summons, or have any questions at all about these two processes, please call me at Bernardini Law, 386-258-3453. I’ll be happy to discuss your situation with you, at no charge. Together we’ll together to address your situation and plan the most beneficial outcome.