A subpoena is a court order to appear at a specified place and time to offer testimony for a case. Anyone can receive a subpoena, or summons, at any time, and then will have to comply with the orders of that subpoena. However, like all court actions, there are strict laws on the use of subpoenas, and anyone ever able to give testimony or to provide evidence at any trial will want to know them before serving as a witness.
Scope of Subpoenas
In Georgia, a court can subpoena a witness, or it may instead subpoena the written or graphic document of a witness, or any physical evidence such as lab materials in a witness's possession. It can also order the inspection, by any means, of an area of land, but in any such case it must specify the items of interest as well as the time, location and procedure for any questioning or inspection. On receiving a subpoena, the recipient must write either a statement of compliance or an objection stating the specific reasons for objecting. An attorney requesting a subpoena, after an objection to that subpoena, must then make a court motion for its enforcement and justify his request for the evidence requested. This may not be difficult, however, given any relevance of the evidence to his case.
Service of Subpoenas
In Georgia, a subpoena can be sent through anyone 18 or older other than someone connected to the case. To reach difficult or distant people, the court may mail the subpoena or order a marshal, a sheriff or a deputy to deliver it. Any person delivering a subpoena in Georgia can hand it to the intended recipient, or leave it with the person in charge of the intended recipient's office or with any responsible adult in his home. To serve an expert witness, or any witness other than the plaintiff or the defendant of the case in question, you must also serve notice to all parties of the case.
Anyone receiving a subpoena must comply with its orders. Under O.C.G.A. 34-8-253 (2010) 34-8-253A, a witness under subpoena must even, if necessary, incriminate himself, though the government will promise not to use any such evidence in any case against him. Anyone failing to comply with a subpoena or attempting to tamper with the documents, evidence or property under a subpoena faces a $1,000 fine for such an act, and may face further charges for libel, slander or perjury.
Subpoenas for Witnesses Outside the Court's Jurisdiction
To order a witness to make a statement in any court other than the one with primary jurisdiction over a case, in Georgia, either the Clerk for the Superior Court of the county of the court with original jurisdiction over the case or the Clerk for the Superior Court of the county of that court serving to record the statement must issue the subpoena. A judge may empower an attorney to record the testimony of a subpoenaed witness, though he may also specify the conditions for taking that witness's statement.