A subpoena is a formal legal document that orders a named person to appear at a specified place and time to offer testimony in a case. In Georgia, parties to legal cases or their attorneys may issue (or ask the court to issue) a subpoena in certain circumstances. The named person who is properly served with the subpoena is then obligated to comply with the instructions contained in the subpoena. As with all aspects of civil and criminal court cases, subpoenas are subject to very specific laws and rules.
Scope of Subpoenas
In Georgia, a party to a court case may ask the court (or the court clerk) to issue a subpoena directing a witness to attend and testify for trial, evidentiary hearings or depositions, or attorneys may issue subpoenas themselves as officers of the court. Attorneys may also request or issue a special form of the document called a subpoena duces tecum. Georgia law allows the subpoena duces tecum in cases in which the person named in the subpoena is in control of documents or other physical evidence, and the requesting party has the right to view or obtain copies of the evidence in discovery.
Any person named in and served with a subpoena may ask the court to quash the subpoena or limit its scope. The named person must outline the specific objections to the subpoena or its scope. The court may entertain oral arguments or written briefs on the issue and will rule on the person’s objections. An attorney requesting a subpoena who receives notice of the named person’s objections may also file a motion with the court asking that the subpoena be enforced.
Georgia Grand Jury Subpoena
Subpoenas may also be utilized in criminal cases, including before the Georgia grand jury. Subpoenas in grand jury proceedings may be issued to compel material witnesses to attend the grand jury proceedings and testify before the jurors. The judge overseeing the grand jury must provide a complete list of all material witnesses who have been served with subpoenas to the prosecuting officers.
Service of Subpoenas
In Georgia, a subpoena can be served by anyone who is at least 18 years of age. This excludes any individual who is connected to the case. Service of a subpoena may take place via a number of valid ways:
- Personally handing it to the individual named in the subpoena
- Giving the subpoena to any individual who is at least 18 years old who resides in the named individual’s residence
- Delivery to the individual in a position of authority at the named individual’s workplace
- Mailing the subpoena to the named individual through registered or certified mail or by statutory overnight delivery
In addition, in cases in which the named individual is a party to the case, service may be made by delivering the subpoena to the party’s attorney of record. Finally, to serve non-party witnesses, including expert witnesses, the issuing party must serve notice of the subpoena to all the named parties in the case.
The party issuing the subpoena must also submit and file proof of service of the subpoena to the appropriate court with jurisdiction over the matter. For personal delivery, the process server may prove delivery through a signed return or certificate printed or stamped on a copy of the subpoena. For service by mail, the return receipt provided by the post office or delivery company constitutes sufficient proof.
Read More: How to Object to a Service of a Subpoena
Compliance With Subpoenas
A person who is served with a Georgia subpoena must comply with its instructions. A failure to respond to a subpoena in Georgia carries stiff penalties, including a fine of up to $1,000 and, possibly, additional charges as well.
Subpoenas for Witnesses Outside the Court’s Jurisdiction
Generally, a subpoena issued by a Georgia state court is ineffective outside the state’s borders. Most states adopt their own rules that govern how and when a subpoena may be issued, served and enforced for cases that are being heard in other states, and Georgia is no exception.
Georgia residents whose testimony is required for court cases in other states may be subpoenaed under the state’s codification of the Uniform Interstate Depositions and Discovery Act (UIDDA) for discovery-related subpoenas. This legislation is codified at Chapter 13, Article 5 of Title 24 on Evidence and requires foreign subpoenas to be issued by the clerk of the superior court and served within a reasonable time period before the named person is required to be present in an out-of-state action.
- Justia: Georgia Code Section 24-13-24 (Service of subpoenas)
- Justia: Georgia Code Section 9-10-160 (Continuance for absence of witness; what application to show)
- Justia: Georgia Code Section 9-15-8 (Liability for costs of witnesses of adverse party)
- Justia: Georgia Code Section 9-11-30 (Depositions upon oral examination)
- Justia: Georgia Code Section 9-11-45 (Subpoena for taking depositions; objections; place of examination)
- Legal Information Institute: Wex - Deposition
- Justia: Georgia Code Section 17-7-190 (Subpoena of material witnesses for state for appearance before grand jury)
- Justia: Georgia Code section 17-7-91 (Subpoena process for witnesses of defendant)
- Rebecca Phalen: Out-of-State Subpoena Citation Chart