I’ve been served a subpoena to Attend court and Give Evidence – what should I expect?

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Being subpoenaed to attend court, in any capacity, can be daunting. The average person will immediately experience a gamete of emotions including fear, anger, uncertainty and anxiety. But, being served with a subpoena to attend court and give evidence does not need to cause such angst. Instead, if you take the time to inform yourself of the process and its requirements, you can arrive at the courthouse ready to testify to the information you possess, calmly and truthfully.

First, it is important to understand that there are three types of subpoena that can be issued;

  1. A subpoena to compel evidence
  2. A subpoena to compel testimony
  3. A subpoena to compel both evidence and testimony

In this article we will concern ourselves with the second form of subpoena; to attend court and give evidence. This means that you have been called to court to testify to your knowledge about the facts of a particular case the court is considering.

One of the first questions people often ask is, “Do I have to attend?” The simple answer is yes. And, while there are exceptions, they are rarely invoked so it is best to make the necessary arrangements so that you can make yourself available on the date and time specified in the subpoena.

Next, read the subpoena carefully. The document will hold the answers to many of your questions including;

  • Date and time that your presence will be expected by the court
  • The address of the courthouse
  • Instructions pertaining to;
    • Where to enter the courthouse from
    • Items that you are allowed/prohibited from bringing in with you
    • Phone numbers for additional assistance
    • Parking information
    • The name of the case
    • Identifying information as to who is the plaintiff/defendant
    • Potentially a case number for you to reference.
  • The court within which the case is being heard
    • Civil court
    • Criminal court
    • Family court
    • Small claims court

If, after reading the subpoena you have questions regarding the logistics of the appearance, call the information numbers provided and a court clerk/employee will be happy to assist you.

At this point, it is time to sit down and review what you might know about the case you have been called to testify in. Here are some questions you should reflect upon;

  1. Did you witness an event? If so;
    1. Can you describe the scene you witnessed,
    2. The number of people involved,
    3. Were they male or female
    4. What was their approximate age
    5. Were there any weapons involved and the type
    6. Was anyone harmed
    7. How well could you see the event
  2. Did you overhear a conversation? If so;
    1. Who was involved
    2. What did they say to each other
    3. Could you hear clearly
    4. Did you see the participants
  3. Do you have knowledge about particular documents? If so;
    1. Type of documents
    2. Under what circumstances did you see them
    3. Did you read them
    4. Can you verify the contents,
    5. Did you create the document

These are just some of the questions that can help you recall the details of the situation you will be asked to recall for the Court. If need be, make some notes to yourself to help you remember what you know and to help bring back any details you might have forgotten or overlooked.

As you take stock of what information you are in possession of, and if you believe that the information you will be asked to testify could implicate you in the case, you should contact a solicitor immediately. Upon doing so request an appointment, explaining that you have been subpoenaed to testify and you are concerned with how your testimony might affect you. During the course of your appointment with the solicitor, be sure to reveal all that you know accurately and truthfully. If you do not give your potential counsel all of the information that you possess, they will not be able to properly advise you as to how to proceed. If the solicitor believes you should have legal representation with you for the appearance, they will discuss what that entails with you so that you can make an informed decision as to hiring counsel.

On the day you are appointed to appear, arrive with plenty of time to find your way. It is important to dress appropriately to show respect for the circumstances and the Court. Upon being advised to enter the courtroom, sit quietly until you are called to testify. While testifying, do not rush your answers. Be careful to answer only the question that has been posed to you. Finally, remain on the witness stand, and/or in the courtroom, until the Judge dismisses you.

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