Subpoena Received? Don’t Be Left in the Dark

Can mental health get you out of a subpoena_


In the blog “What is a Subpoena?” readers delve into the intricacies of this legal document and its significance within the legal landscape. Exploring its etymology and legal origins, the blog elucidates how a subpoena serves as a powerful tool in compelling witness testimony or the submission of evidence in legal proceedings. It delves into the different types of subpoenas, such as subpoenas ad testificandum and subpoenas duces tecum, each tailored to specific evidentiary needs. Furthermore, the blog elucidates the procedural aspects of issuing and responding to subpoenas, shedding light on the rights and obligations of both the party issuing the subpoena and the recipient. Overall, the blog equips readers with a comprehensive understanding of the role and importance of subpoenas in the administration of justice.

We discuss these topics in this blog:

What is a Subpoena?

In court, a subpoena acts like a witness summons. It’s a formal court order, requested by a lawyer, that compels someone to take action. 

There are two main types:

  1. Subpoena ad testificandum
  2. Subpoena duces tecum 

lawyers use subpoenas to gather evidence for their clients, whether in criminal or civil cases.

A typical subpoena will be signed by a lawyer and specify the date, time, and location where the witness must appear in court.

Subpoena ad testificandum

A “subpoena ad testificandum” is a legal paper that tells someone they have to speak in court or at a legal meeting. When someone gets this type of paper, they have to go to a certain place at a certain time and talk while promising to tell the truth. If they don’t go after getting the paper, they could be in trouble, like getting fined or even going to jail. But sometimes, people can say they shouldn’t have to go, like if they have a special legal right or if it’s too hard for them to talk. Mostly, though, people have to follow this kind of paper, and not doing it without a good reason could cause big legal problems.

Subpoena duces tecum

A “subpoena duces tecum” is a legal order that requires someone to give specific documents or items to the court, unlike a regular subpoena which is about speaking. These documents could be important evidence for a case, like papers or emails. If someone ignores a subpoena duces tecum, they could be held in contempt of court. However, they can challenge it if they have a valid reason, such as privacy concerns or not having the documents. Without a good reason, they could face legal consequences.

It’s important to note that subpoenas must be delivered to the witness in person. 

This responsibility falls on a process server, who must be at least 18 and unconnected to the case. Servers can be investigators or paralegals, but not someone directly involved like a witness or a party in the case. Handing the subpoena directly to the recipient is crucial. “Leaving it on the doorstep or mailing it doesn’t count,” explains attorney Iris Eytan. “For a subpoena to be valid, personal service is required.”

What Happens When Someone Rejects a Subpoena?

If someone refuses to accept a subpoena when it’s handed to them, but they still physically take it, they’ve still been served. Even if they drop it on the ground after being given it, as long as the server is sure of who they are, it counts as being served.

There’s an option to skip the in-person delivery of subpoenas. They can be sent by mail instead. But the lawyer should ask the person if they’re okay with receiving it by mail. On every subpoena, there’s a part where the person can agree to get it by mail instead of in person. They just need to sign it and send it back, saying they got it.

If you have a lawyer, they can accept the subpoena for you. They can also say the subpoena isn’t fair.

For example, if you’re a therapist and someone wants your client’s records, it’s better to have a lawyer. That way, you don’t break any rules for being a therapist. If you’re a witness and you’re scared to go to court, a lawyer can help protect you and make sure your rights are respected.

If someone is accused of a crime and can’t afford a lawyer, they get a public defender for free. But witnesses don’t get free lawyers. If you want legal help, it’s important to talk to a lawyer who knows about criminal cases.

The Ramifications of Noncompliance with a Subpoena?

Avoiding a subpoena or not showing up to court when you receive one can lead to being held in contempt of court, according to Eytan. Even if you attend court but refuse to answer questions, you could still face contempt charges and possible jail time, up to six months, or fines. If you receive a subpoena for documents, you must deliver them to the court by the requested date. You don’t have to go to court yourself but can drop off the records. To challenge a subpoena, you still need to go to court with the documents. There, you can explain reasons such as medical, attorney-client, or mental health privacy for not wanting the documents used in the case.


Understanding subpoenas is vital because they are legal documents that dictate what someone must do in court. It’s crucial to comply with them, as failing to do so can lead to serious consequences like being held in contempt of court. However, if you have legitimate reasons for not being able to comply, such as mental health issues, it’s important to seek guidance from a lawyer. Prioritizing your well-being while navigating legal matters is essential. Stay informed about your rights, seek assistance when necessary, and make sure to follow the rules to navigate subpoenas effectively and responsibly.


Q1. When is it appropriate to end a relationship with someone who has a mental illness?

A1. If the relationship becomes emotionally taxing, negatively impacts your mental well-being, or displays persistent toxic behavior despite efforts to assist, it might be time to consider stepping back.

Q2. What mental illness is particularly challenging to live with?

A2. Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) stands out as one of the most agonizing mental health conditions. Not only does it cause significant distress, but it’s also exacerbated by societal stigma and misunderstanding. However, it’s crucial to note that BPD is treatable, offering hope for improvement.

Q3. Which mental illness is frequently misdiagnosed?

A3. Bipolar disorder often falls victim to misdiagnosis, potentially leading to harmful consequences if improperly treated. Numerous studies have shed light on the prevalence of misdiagnosing bipolar disorder.

Q4. Do psychiatrists sometimes make diagnostic errors?

A4. Regrettably, yes. Like any medical professional, psychiatrists can occasionally misdiagnose conditions. However, it’s important to recognize that they strive for accuracy, supported by ample research indicating their diagnostic competency.

Q5. Can living with someone with a mental illness impact your mental health?

A5. Absolutely. Mental illness doesn’t solely affect the individual experiencing it; it can also disrupt the lives of their family and loved ones. It’s normal to experience a range of emotions, such as anxiety, anger, frustration, or sadness when living with someone who has a mental illness.

Dive deeper: Explore our blog for a wealth of mental health info: