Subpoena Definition and Legal Meaning

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

What is Subpoena?

(n) (suh-pea-nah) It is the order issued by court directing any person or witness to be personally present before the court at the designated place and time . If the person fails to appear as required court can initiate contempt of court procedures against him

History and Definition of Subpoena

The term "subpoena" comes from Latin, meaning "under penalty." It is a legal order issued by a court or other legal authority that commands an individual to appear before the issuing body at a designated time to give testimony or provide evidence in a legal matter. Failure to comply with a subpoena can result in penalties ranging from fines to imprisonment for contempt of court.

Subpoenas have been used in legal proceedings since medieval times and are intended to help courts gather relevant evidence and testimony from witnesses, victims, and other individuals who may have information relevant to a case. Subpoenas are often used in criminal and civil cases, as well as in administrative and regulatory proceedings.

Examples of Subpoena

  1. A lawyer may issue a subpoena to compel a witness to testify in a trial.
  2. An employer may receive a subpoena requesting employee records in an employment discrimination case.
  3. A financial institution may receive a subpoena requesting bank records related to a fraud investigation.
  4. A government agency may issue a subpoena to a technology company requesting access to user data in a national security investigation.
  5. A journalist may receive a subpoena compelling them to turn over notes and sources in a defamation lawsuit.

Legal Terms Similar to Subpoena

  1. Summons - An order requiring a defendant to appear in court to answer a legal complaint or charge.
  2. Warrant - A legal document authorizing law enforcement officers to take a certain action, such as arrest or search and seizure.
  3. Discovery - The process of exchanging evidence and information between parties in a legal case. This may include subpoenas.
  4. Contempt of Court - A legal charge for failure to comply with a court order, such as a subpoena.
  5. Testimony - Oral or written evidence given under oath or affirmation in a legal proceeding.