A subpoena (“under penalty”) is an order from a Court to a third party to either produce documents or give testimony/deposition regarding facts in litigation. If A and B are embroiled in a lawsuit, and C has either documentation or firsthand knowledge of facts critical to the lawsuit, either A or B may subpoena C to produce those documents or provide testimony to illustrate what he/she knows.
Subpoenas generally come in two form: the subpoena duces tecum, which calls for the production of documents or things, or the subpoena ad testificandum, which requires testimony. Both are frequently used simultaneously when testimony and documentation are needed. The rules relating to subpoenas can very from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. In Missouri, for instance, Supreme Court Rule 57.09 generally governs subpoena procedures, stating, among other things, that an individual needs at least ten (10) days notice for compliance with a subpoena duces tecum. Furthermore, the individual subject to the subpoena may be entitled to reimbursement for reasonable travel costs or other expenses incurred in complying with the subpoena.
In some circumstances, the individual subpoenaed may challenge the subpoena by filing either a Motion to Quash or Modify. A subpoena can be quashed if it is “unreasonable or oppressive.” It can be modified to make compliance more reasonable.
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