An attorney or party to a court procedure in Ohio can ask an individual or business to do something, like provide documents or give testimony. But only a court can turn that request into an order or command. A written court command is termed a subpoena and is issued in both civil and criminal cases in Ohio.
There are serious penalties for failing or refusing to comply with a subpoena, so special rules apply as to how it must be delivered. Those living in Ohio should understand the subpoena process in this state, including who can deliver a subpoena and how it must be done.
What Is a Subpoena?
A subpoena tells a person or a business entity to do something related to a court case. It must include the name of the court from which it is issued, the title of the action and the court case number. Note that attorneys to litigation in Ohio may be issued subpoena forms in blank that they fill out themselves and use, but even so, the subpoena remains a command from the court itself.
Since the court is doing the ordering, it is important for the recipient of the subpoena to comply or respond in a timely manner. In Ohio, subpoenas are used in civil cases to command the defendant in a newly initiated case to appear in court and respond to the claims by a certain date. They are also used in both civil and criminal actions to order someone to give sworn testimony in court or in an out-of-court procedure called a deposition.
But not every Ohio subpoena requires a personal appearance. There are also product request subpoenas that instruct a person or business entity to produce evidence that may be relevant to a case. Usually a subpoena to produce refers to documents and/or records, but a person can also be subpoenaed to produce other types of evidence, like clothing, a vehicle to be inspected or even a gun. Finally, under the Ohio Civil Rules, a subpoena may order a person to allow entry upon designated land or other property in the possession or control of that person.
Methods of Service of Ohio Subpoena
Since there are serious consequences if an individual or business does not comply with a subpoena, it is important for the court to be assured that the subpoena was accurately delivered. It is also important to know when it was delivered, since most deadlines either run from the date of delivery or are calculated to give the recipient a certain amount of time to prepare.
That is why subpoenas must be "served" in Ohio, as in most states. That means that someone must personally hand the paper to the individual or the agent for service of process of a business entity, or that the subpoena must be delivered in some other reliable manner permitted under state law. Once the subpoena is served, the person responsible for serving it must notify the court by filing a court document called notice of service of process. This informs the court when the subpoena was served, who served it, and on whom it was served.
Proof of Service of Process
The rules regarding service of process in Ohio civil and criminal cases are set out in the Ohio Rules of Court. They specify how service of process shall be made, as well as who can personally deliver a subpoena.
In some cases, service can be made by certified mail. In this case, the Ohio court clerk prepares the paperwork, including instructions for requested return receipt when the envelope is delivered to the recipient of the subpoena. The clerk mails the documents to the individual or the registered agent for service of process in the case of a business. The person served must sign to receive the document, and this signed receipt is provided to the court to prove time, date and place of receipt.
Personal Service of Subpoena
In many cases, "personal" service is required. That means that the subpoena must be delivered in person, by hand, to the recipient by an approved process server. This is usually required to compel a person's appearance in court, but an Ohio plaintiff in other cases may also request personal service by filing a written request with the court. The subpoena must be delivered within 28 days of issuance.
The court rules list those persons who can personally serve subpoenas. They include: an Ohio sheriff, bailiff, coroner, clerk of court, constable, marshal, deputy, municipal or township policeman, an attorney at law or any person designated by the court who is not a party to the action and is at least 18 years old. The person serving process must deliver the document into the hands of the person to whom it is addressed. Alternatively, the serving party can read it aloud to that person or leave it at the person's usual place of residence with someone at the residence who is at least 18 years old.
Service Through Ohio SOS
Many business entities in Ohio are required to name agents for service of process with the secretary of state's office. These are individuals, at least 18 years of age, who reside in the state. Anyone wishing to serve a lawsuit or a subpoena on the business entity can serve the named agent. The secretary of state's office can provide the name and address of the agent for service of process based on the most current filings.
However, if the business entity fails to maintain an agent, the listed address for the agent is no longer valid or, for other reasons, the agent cannot be found, this process may prove difficult or impossible. In that case, it may also be possible to serve the business entity through the Ohio Secretary of State's (SOS) office. Not every business entity can be served in this way, but the rules specify those that can.
The procedure requires that four copies of the subpoena be mailed to the SOS, Paralegal Division for Service of Process for each entity being served. The packet must also include an affidavit stating the most recent known address for each business and the reason service could not be obtained on the statutory agent. A small fee is required for each service.
Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.