Subpena Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Subpena, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Subpena?

(n) Subpena is summons issued by a court directing a witness to appear before the court for giving evidence or testifying the documents before the court at the designated time and place under oath. A court can issue warrant to bring the witness if he fails to appear before the court without sufficient cause and permission and such abstinence are punishable as contempt of court

History and Meaning of Subpena

A subpena, also known as subpoena, is a legal document issued by a court, government agency, or an attorney ordering someone to appear in court as a witness. The term "subpena" comes from the Latin term "sub poena," meaning "under penalty." The document requires the recipient to appear in court at a specific place and time to give testimony or produce evidence.

The use of subpenas dates back to the early English common law system. Over time, the use of subpenas has evolved to include not only witnesses but also parties involved in a case. In some cases, a subpena can also be issued for the production of documents, records, or other evidence relevant to the case.

Examples of Subpena

  1. A prosecuting attorney issues a subpena to a witness to testify in a criminal trial.
  2. A defense attorney issues a subpena to a police officer to produce dashcam footage of a traffic stop relevant to a case.
  3. An administrative agency issues a subpena to a business to produce records related to an investigation.
  4. A grand jury issues a subpena to a witness to testify in a secret proceeding.
  5. A civil attorney issues a subpena to a party in a lawsuit to produce documents relevant to a case.

Legal Terms Similar to Subpena

  1. Summons - a document that requires a party to appear in court in a civil case
  2. Warrant - a court order authorizing the arrest of a person or the search of a property
  3. Complaint - a legal document filed by a plaintiff to initiate a lawsuit
  4. Indictment - a formal accusation charging a person with a crime, handed down by a grand jury.