I was Served a Subpoena in New York — Now What?
Were you served a subpoena in New York and are now wondering what to do next?
First, consider what you were subpoenaed to do.
If you’ve been subpoenaed to testify, the subpoena will specify the time and place you have to appear to give testimony. In New York City, you are entitled to a witness fee ($15.00 per day). If you are served outside the City of New York, you should also be paid 23 cents per mile to the place of attendance, from the place where you were served, and for your return. The fee must be paid in a reasonable amount of time before the scheduled date.
If you’ve been subpoenaed to produce documents, the subpoena will list the documents you must produce and will specify the deadline by which you must provide them. You may ask the individual requesting the documents to reimburse you for any costs (for example, the cost of making copies).
You may not simply ignore a subpoena. If you have a legitimate reason to avoid the subpoena, you must still respond and explain your position.
What Happens if I Don’t Comply with a Subpoena?
Failure to comply with a subpoena is punishable as a contempt of court (CPLR 2308). “Contempt of court” is any action — or, in this case, lack thereof — that disregards the court’s authority, disrupts the court, or obstructs the ability of the court to function.
If you were issued a judicial subpoena, you may be liable for a penalty not exceeding $150.00 and damages sustained by reason of the failure to comply. A court may also issue a warrant directing a sheriff to bring you into court. If you are brought into court, but refuse to comply with the subpoena, the court may issue a warrant committing you to jail until you submit to do the act that you were subpoenaed to do.
If you were issued a nonjudicial subpoena and the court finds that the subpoena was authorized, the court may authorize your compliance and impose costs not exceeding $50.00.
The takeaway: Non-compliance with a subpoena is a non-option. If you have a scheduling issue with the date or time in the subpoena, you should contact whoever issued it (such as the judge) and arrange to reschedule. Be sure to get any rescheduled date in writing — especially if you have been called to testify at trial.
Otherwise, you may be held in contempt of court.
Contribution by Maria Fischer