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Failure to Appear (FTA) on Subpoena - California Penal Code PC 1331

Posted by Raoul Severo | Nov 16, 2020 | 0 Comments

If you happened to receive a subpoena once before, you've probably wondered things such as “What exactly is a subpoena?”, “What should I do with it?”, and sometimes even “Is this even important?”

These are just one of the most common questions asked about a subpoena. For starters, a subpoena is a court order to mandate the recipient to either perform any of the following:

  • Produce certain documents;
  • Appear before the court to give evidence; or
  • Both

So, you might have an idea by now that subpoenas are very important. The court does not just order a subpoena for no particular reason. In fact, the law, in general, does not involve any individual in a legal proceeding without reasonable grounds. 

Before we discuss what you should do if you receive one, we must first talk about the essential details, such as the process, medium, or conditions of filing a subpoena.

A subpoena is usually served to an individual by:

  • Hand-delivery;
  • Email; or
  • Post mail.

Like arrest warrants, the details written on the subpoena must be factual, relevant, and up-to-date. Therefore, a subpoena is only valid if it includes:

  • The name of the court issuing the subpoena;
  • The name, address, and contact details of the lawyer who requested it;
  • The names of the parties involved in the case; and
  • The assigned case docket number.

Meanwhile, if the subpoena requires you to produce a document (this type of subpoena is called a subpoena duces tecum), it should have additional information such as:

  • The categories of documents requested by court;
  • The date by which the subpoena has been served to you; and
  • The date by which the requested documents have to be presented.

Experts and attorneys suggest that you double-check the subpoena served to you to ensure validity. If a subpoena is served after the date for service specified in the subpoena, you are not obliged to comply with it. However, if the subpoena is deemed valid and the recipient still decides to ignore it, penalties may be enforced.

If so, there are two possible scenarios:

  • The attorney who initiated the subpoena requests the judge to issue a warrant of arrest to the recipient
  • The judge recognizes the disobedience of the recipient as contempt of court.

Penalties for Failure to Appear on Subpoena 

As stated in California Penal Code PC 1331, unless the witness shows a good cause for his/her non-attendance, he/she will be ruled guilty for failure to appear on a subpoena. Generally, a hearing will be held where the party charged with noncompliance has an opportunity to explain its side of the story, and the court or agency has broad discretion to determine an appropriate punishment given the circumstances presented. But more often than not, the witness shall be punished by:

  • 1 year in county jail, and/or
  • A fine of not more than $1,000

For a civil lawsuit, however, the penalties will differ depending on the circumstances of your case. 

What To Do When You Receive a Subpoena

The best thing you can do is to comply with the court's orders and make sure that the documents that you will be submitting are exactly what the court asked for.

To make it efficient for both parties, we highly encourage you to do the following:

  • Sort documents according to their category (i.e., audio recording, physical objects, etc);
  • Complete the declaration on the back of the subpoena to confirm that you require the return of the documents, or that the documents can be destroyed;
  • If requested by the court, supply copies of the documents;
  • If you do not have any documents in the categories described in the subpoena, you can simply write and tell the court; and
  • If the documents are digital, save them in a flash drive or print physical copies of them.

We Can Help You

If this is your first time receiving a subpoena, it can really become an overwhelming and stressful experience. In fact, there are cases where the recipient of the subpoena accidentally disobeys the court order without really intending to do so. That is why you need to consult with the legal guidance and expertise of lawyers. If you have some things you still don't quite understand, we are more than happy to help you. Give us a call so we can resolve whatever issue you have immediately.

Send us a message! We'll get back to you ASAP

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