There are legitimate and legal reasons to avoid compliance with a subpoena. Although Federal Rules of Civil Procedure guide subpoena ;aw, most states have adopted rules nearly identical to these. When you are served with a subpoena, whether for a grand jury, to provide documents, or to testify at a civil or criminal trial, your best course is always to seek out competent legal counsel.
A subpoena must be served by someone personally delivering a copy of it to you. If you are a potential witness, you may be able to delay the process for a short amount of time by avoiding service. If you are a party you risk being sanctioned by the court for failure to comply with discovery. Ultimately, you will be served if you reside within the court's area and you will need to either comply with the subpoena or use a different legal excuse.
A person that is subpoenaed to produce or inspect documents or other material may slow the process by objecting to the subpoena in writing. The writing must be sent to either the unrepresented party or the attorney that sent the subpoena, either by the date the materials or 14 days after the subpoena is served, whichever is earlier. If you properly object to the subpoena, the other party must go ask the court for an order to compel you to provide the information requested.
In certain circumstances, the judge might issue an order that either quashes or modifies the subpoena that was issued to you. Those situations occur when the subpoena fails to allow a reasonable time to comply or requires a person who is neither a party nor a party's officer to travel more than 100 miles from where that person resides, is employed, or regularly transacts business in person.
The judge also has discretion to quash or modify a subpoena if it requires disclosure of privileged information, or if it requires disclosing a trade secret or other confidential research. In addition, if the subpoena requires an unretained expert's opinion that does not describe specific occurrences in dispute, the judge can modify or quash the subpoena.
Scott A. Pullins has been an Ohio based business and public affairs consultant and attorney. He has advised clients on complex legal, business, marketing and public policy issues. Most recently he worked as a default analyst for the Mortgage Banking Executive Office for JPMorgan Chase Bank NA.