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Legal Definition of Subpoena


A subpoena is a court order that is issued to an individual as a result of their failure to appear in court upon the receipt of a court notice. While a ‘notice to appear’ is a court order that informs an individual with regard to their requested presence in court, when an individual is subpoenaed, it is a result of that individual’s prior failure of appearing in court.

In the event that an individual receives a subpoena and does not appear in court subsequent to its receipt, the court may choose to either hold that individual in contempt of court or issue a warrant for their arrest. Although the stipulations surrounding subpoenas vary from state to state, the implication of being subpoenaed is uniform; it is considered to be a punitive court order.

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