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I Never Directly Received A Subpoena. How Does Subpoena Work?

What if I never directly...

What if I never directly received a subpoena to appear in court as a witness in a criminal case I know nothing about?? Can I get in trouble for not appearing?? I'm located in New Mexico.

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Answered in 5 minutes by:
2/27/2012
J.Hazelbaker
J.Hazelbaker, Lawyer
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 4,385
Experience: Extensive training and experience in criminal law matters, both prosecuting and defending.
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J.Hazelbaker :

Hello. Thank you for using JustAnswer.

In order for a subpoena to be effective, you do not need to be directly served in person. A subpoena can be left at your place of residence or given to a responsible party at your place of residence or work. However, if neither of those has occurred and you haven't personally received the subpoena, then you can ignore it. Legally, there is no obligation to comply with a subpoena you have heard about, but which has not effectively been served upon you. On the other hand, if the issuing party believes that you were properly served, they can convince the court to issue a warrant for your arrest. That is the worst case scenario. Fighting that is time consuming and energy-draining, though you can win by demonstrating the lack of service.

JACUSTOMER-kjdc7yra- :

No neither of the above has been done. I haven't gotten served but I know they are trying to serve me.

J.Hazelbaker :

Ok. In that situation, unless they are successful you don't have to show. You don't have a legal obligation to make it easy for them.

JACUSTOMER-kjdc7yra- :

So if I never get served directly which I thought it had to be, there is no way no how they can issue a warrant?? I just don't want to go to jail. I want to be sure

J.Hazelbaker :

The subpoena can be left at your house or work with someone over the age of 18, or directly served to you personally. If not, then service has not been made and a warrant cannot be issueed.

JACUSTOMER-kjdc7yra- :

So let me get this straight. If its at my door when I get home, I could consider myself served?? What if I'm out of town when the subpoena is served at home or to a family member for me? Can I still get a warrant that way?

J.Hazelbaker :

No. They can't leave it at your door. But, they can leave it with an adult (e.g. a room mate).

JACUSTOMER-kjdc7yra- :

Actually I should be asking, what are the consequences for not appearing if I do end up getting served and don't appear?

J.Hazelbaker :

If it is left with an adult at your home or work and you are out of time and can't appear, then you have not violated the subpoena because compliance was not possible. By law, a subpoena has to be reasonable.

Ok, if you are validly served and you don't appear. Typically, the court will give you another chance before a warrant is issued. Worst case is that a warrant is issued and you are arrested and held until you can give your testimony.

JACUSTOMER-kjdc7yra- :

Are you saying they can jail you until the next court date? or until you agree to testify in the next court?

J.Hazelbaker :

Yes. But that rarely happens. That's the worst case scenario. It's called contempt of court. What will likely happen is that the judge will tell the party who subpoenaed you to continue with their case. If, at the end of the case, the party says they still need to call you as a witness because your testimony is critical and you still haven't showed, then the judge would consider issuing a warrant.

JACUSTOMER-kjdc7yra- :

This case is still waiting to get bonded over to district court and from my understanding without the witnesses they can't move forward with that or is that not true?? That's why I may be thinking they really want me to appear.

J.Hazelbaker :

Yes. That could be true. At least it passes the "smell" test.

JACUSTOMER-kjdc7yra- :

So does that mean if they really want me, they could legally get me in trouble?

J.Hazelbaker :

Only if they properly serve you. Unless they can properly serve you, there is nothing they can do.

JACUSTOMER-kjdc7yra- :

So say worst case scenario I do end up having to get on that stand to testify, am I obligated to talk or can I remain silent or say I don't remember, because I really was drunk when this happened?

J.Hazelbaker :

Yes. All you have to say is that you were intoxicated and you don't remember. They can't compel you to make stuff up. They can compel you to appear in court--if they properly serve you--but they can't compel you to say anything specific.

JACUSTOMER-kjdc7yra- :

So even if it was to piss the judge off, she couldn't get me for contempt or any other jailable offence?

J.Hazelbaker :

That's correct. As long as you don't lie, there's nothing they can do.

Please let me know what follow-up questions you have.

JACUSTOMER-kjdc7yra- :

You have been great, but one more question. When the subpoena is being served and your room mate, girlfriend, etc. refuses to accept responsibility of the subpoena? Can it still be left with them?

J.Hazelbaker :

As long as the server doesn't get it in their hands, then they can refuse. Once they take possession of it, game over.

JACUSTOMER-kjdc7yra- :

Ok, thanks a lot and I'm sure I will have follow up questions later when I think of them.

J.Hazelbaker
J.Hazelbaker, Lawyer
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 4,385
Experience: Extensive training and experience in criminal law matters, both prosecuting and defending.
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