A subpoena is a tool used by parties to a legal matter, including criminal cases and civil cases. If you are facing criminal charges, it is important to use all available tools to mount a strong defense.
Subpoenas Used in Ohio Criminal Cases
Subpoenas are court orders. If a person fails to comply with a validly issued subpoena, the court may impose penalties, including fines and jail time.
There are two main types of subpoenas used in Ohio criminal cases. The first type of subpoena we use in a criminal case is a subpoena duces tecum.
Subpoenas for Documents in a Criminal Case
A subpoena duces tecum requires a person or company to produce documents related to your case. The prosecution is required to produce information and documents it intends to use during a trial. However, an individual or company is not required to produce private documents without a court order.
The subpoena places a legal obligation on the person or company to turn over the documents stated in the subpoena. If the person or company refuses, the court may intervene.
A judge may require the party to appear in court to explain why the party refuses to comply with the subpoena. Absent a legal reason for not complying with the subpoena, the judge issues a deadline for the party to comply. If the party refuses to comply, the judge may order a fine and jail time.
A daily fine may apply for failing to comply with the subpoena. The judge may also order the party to be held in custody until the party complies.
Subpoenas for Witnesses in Criminal Cases
Witnesses can be very important in a criminal case. However, some witnesses may not want to testify. A subpoena can require the person to appear at a deposition or a hearing to testify.
Identifying the witnesses in your case may be difficult. You may not know who might hold key information that could prove your innocence.
Your attorney may use subpoenas for documents and information to identify potential witnesses. The attorney may then use a witness subpoena to compel testimony.
How Do You Serve A Subpoena?
State laws are very specific regarding the service of a subpoena. Serving a subpoena means delivering the subpoena to the party who is the subject of the subpoena. Incorrect service of a subpoena means the person may not be required to comply with the subpoena.
In some cases, a subpoena may be served on a party by mail. However, proof of service is required. Proof of service by mail is generally accomplished by sending the document by restricted mail, return receipt requested.
A subpoena served by mail is typically one for documents requested from a company. Most subpoenas directed to individuals require personal service.
Process servers and law enforcement officers serve subpoenas. A process server is a private individual, typically trained in the legal requirements for serving documents. The process server or law enforcement officer signs a statement confirming they delivered the subpoena.
A witness may also accept service of a subpoena by signing a statement. The statement affirms that the person received the subpoena. A criminal defendant is not permitted to serve a subpoena on a potential witness.
Proof of service becomes very important if the person or company refuses to comply with the subpoena. The court requires proof that the party received the subpoena pursuant to the law before the court holds the party responsible for failing to comply. Without proof of service, a judge will generally not require the party to comply with the subpoena.
Do Not Talk to Potential Witnesses
If you are arrested or are currently under investigation, do not talk to potential witnesses. Talking to a potential witness about your case could hurt your case. Instead, contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
Your best option for defending yourself is to exercise your legal rights. Resist the urge to explain your actions or talk your way out of a criminal charge. Use your right to remain silent.
Exercise your right to counsel. Do not answer questions or discuss the case without an attorney. Having experienced legal counsel is the most important tool you can have for fighting criminal charges.