If you have relevant information regarding a misdemeanor or felony offense in Virginia, you could be served with a subpoena to testify at a court hearing, trial, or grand jury proceeding. You could also receive a subpoena in a federal criminal case.
You should not ignore the subpoena. You may face harsh consequences if you do this. Here are the steps you must take to comply with the subpoena’s requirements. You should also consult with an experienced criminal defense lawyer to protect your rights.
Reasons Why You Might Be Served With a Subpoena to Testify
The prosecutor or defendant could subpoena you to testify as a witness in any criminal case, such as DUI, reckless driving, burglary, murder, or kidnapping, if they believe you have relevant information to provide. Reasons they may want you to testify include the following:
- You participated in events related to the crime.
- You witnessed events associated with the crime or defense.
- You possess documents or evidence relevant to the prosecutor’s case or the accused’s defense.
- You have had conversations or communications with the defendant or other parties relevant to the criminal case.
- You are a co-worker, friend, or family member and have information about the criminal case or are a character witness for the defendant.
Information the Subpoena Will Contain That You Need to Understand
A subpoena can be a confusing legal document unless you know what to look for when reading it. Here is helpful information contained in the subpoena:
- Party requesting the subpoena. The subpoena will inform you what party requested the subpoena and whether the Commonwealth of Virginia, a city, town, or county in Virginia, a grand jury, or the defendant is subpoenaing you.
- Place and time of the hearing. The subpoena will tell you the court or other location where you must appear and the date and time of the hearing.
Steps to Take if You Receive a Subpoena as a Witness
You must take the correct actions to comply with the subpoena and protect your rights. Here are the steps you should take:
- Don’t ignore the subpoena. Do not ignore the subpoena. If you fail to attend the hearing, the judge could hold you in contempt of court or punish you in another way.
- Read the subpoena. Read the subpoena thoroughly to understand the essential details, like where you must appear, the date and time you must testify, and why you are being subpoenaed.
- Respond. The subpoena will tell you if you have to respond to it in some manner. Contact the court clerk immediately if you cannot attend the scheduled hearing for a compelling reason or provide the requested documents. You may also want to contact the party who subpoenaed you to find out more details about why they want you to testify or hire a skilled criminal defense lawyer to contact them on your behalf so that you are prepared for the hearing.
- Make arrangements. Make whatever arrangements you need to make so that you can appear and testify, like getting time off work or setting up day care for your children.
- Be on time. Leave early enough so that you are on time for the hearing.
- Retain a lawyer. Witnesses who are subpoenaed do not always need to retain a lawyer. However, if you are worried that you would implicate yourself in committing a crime or risk other criminal consequences, you may need to retain a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney. They can give you advice, appear in court with you, help you assert your constitutional right against self-incrimination, and work out an immunity agreement with the prosecutor.