A subpoena, or what is sometimes called an administrative subpoena, is a document from a governmental agency or more likely from a court that orders an individual to testify before the court or produce documents that the court would like to review as evidence. Courts at both the state and federal level can issue an administrative subpoena. Administrative subpoenas can be issued in either civil or criminal cases.
Courts issue administrative subpoenas because they believe that an individual has evidence that is relevant in a particular case that the court is hearing. This evidence can include testimony about something the person has witnessed; records that provide important data, facts, or descriptions; or expert testimony about an area in which the person has unique training or experience.
In the context of a case related to a DUI, the testimony or evidence you can provide to the court may include one of the following: describing erratic driving behavior you witnessed leading up to an accident; observing the person accused of DUI consuming a certain number of drinks at a bar before getting behind the wheel; or noting slurred speech or an inability to walk without stumbling in a person before that person chooses to drive.
If you receive an administrative subpoena, remember that it does not necessarily mean you have done anything wrong or that you are being pursued or questioned related to civil or criminal charges against you. Rather, the administrative subpoena often relates to the court wanting to hear something you know or see something you have. The subpoena will state specifically what the court wants and where and how you are to give it to the court. This could include you appearing at the court to give direct testimony, answering written questions for the court, or delivering the relevant records to the court by a certain date.
You have three options when you receive an administrative subpoena.
Do nothing. If you receive an administrative subpoena, you can choose not to respond. However, keep in mind that if you do not respond to a subpoena, the court can find you in contempt of court. As a result, you may be subject to a fine or even face jail time. Therefore, it is generally not a good idea to simply ignore a subpoena.
Refuse to comply with the subpoena. You can choose not to comply with the subpoena. If you choose not to comply with the subpoena, it should be for a valid reason, not simply because you do not feel like complying. Valid reasons for not complying with a subpoena can include because the evidence the court is asking you to provide would incriminate you in some fashion, thus violating your rights under the Fifth Amendment; the information is confidential, such as a trade secret that gives you a competitive advantage in your business, and revealing the information would hurt your business in a detrimental manner; or because you do not have the information the court believes you have.
Comply with the subpoena. You can simply respond to the administrative subpoena in the manner and time dictated by the subpoena.
In general, if you receive an administrative subpoena related to something you witnessed in a DUI case, you will likely need to go before the court to testify as to what you saw; it is unusual for there to be a valid reason not to testify in such cases. However, if you believe testifying about a DUI may incriminate you in some manner, such as because you were responsible for serving alcohol to an underage person, you should consult an attorney.
The article above was written by Mark J.
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