Summons vs Subpoena – What’s The Difference

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It’s common for people to confuse the purpose of a subpoena or summons and think they’re interchangeable terms. However, while both require that those receiving them make their way to court their purpose is very different. If you receive a summons, you’ll be the focus of the case, whereas with a subpoena what you know is vital in the outcome of the case.

A Subpoena:

What is a Subpoena?

A subpoena is a court ordered command, it requires that you do something – either testifying or producing information that could be helpful to either party. Subpoenas are used in both criminal and civil cases to compel someone to comply with a request for testimony or information.

There are two types of subpoenas. A subpoena ad testificandum and a subpoena duces tecum. The former requires you to submit evidence to the court in the form of documentation or other information but doesn’t require that you go to court personally. Whereas the subpoena duces tecum requires that you give verbal testimony that would be vital to the case.

What’s Included in a Subpoena?

Subpoenas contain the following information.
● The government or court that is requiring the presence of the person.
● The matter in question. This may be a lawsuit or an investigation.
● The details of when and where the person is ordered to appear.
● The penalty associated with not complying with the subpoena or not appearing at the appointed time and place.

How Can I Serve A Subpoena?

Subpoenas can be served in one of three ways:

1. Registered and Certified Mail – This is a special USPS service that ensures the sender that their item was delivered. After the item has been mailed, the sender will receive an official receipt. This also requires the mail carrier to get the signature of the recipient of the item, in this case, the subpoena.
2. Hand Delivered by the Sheriff – Using sheriffs to serve subpoenas may be straightforward, but it also has its drawbacks. Whether you pay the sheriff or have the court waive the fee for serving the subpoena, the sheriff is only required to try completing the service once.
3. Served by a Registered Process Server – If you want the subpoena to be served in a timely manner, using a process server is the best option. They will hand-deliver the document to the recipient. They will make multiple attempts, even in a single day just to make sure your item is delivered. This guarantees a more seamless proceeding overall.

For your subpoena be valid you need to ensure you’re following the correct procedure for its service. Since registered mail can be an unreliable means it is better that you have a sheriff, or a registered process server deliver the documents.

This way you have confirmation and proof that the subpoena was received by its intended recipient and that they were fully aware of their duties.

However, the most important reason of them all is that it benefits your case to have the subpoena served promptly and accurately.

Your partner for service of subpoena in New York should be a trusted agency in the state. They should cover a wide range of boroughs in the city, as well as in other counties.

You should expect nothing less than real-time updates from your servers – from the time they leave the office for delivery to the moment the witness receives their subpoena. Like process serving defendants, time is of the essence when it comes to delivering subpoenas. As such, your provider should be able to deliver your request in less than a week. And if you’re in a bind, they should be able to accommodate rush or same-day service as well.

Do I Have To Go To Court If I Receive A Subpoena?

Subpoenas are court orders. That means they’re legally binding – regardless of your affiliation with the case. If you don’t obey a subpoena you will be held in contempt. Which will lead to being fined or jailed.

A Summons:

What is a Summons?

A summons on the other hand is more common than a subpoena and is served at the very beginning of a case as it notifies the defendant that they’re being sued.
How Can I Serve a Summons?

In New York City summons can be served by the sheriff, a registered process server or someone over 18 who isn’t linked to the case and is a citizen of New York. This person may not have served more than five summonses in the course of a year to be eligible.

What’s Included in a Summons?

Summons contains the following information.
● The name of the court that is issuing the summons.
● The name of the party receiving the summons.
● The names of the plaintiff and the defendant.
● The number assigned by the court to the case.
● The overview of the case.
● The schedule the defendant needs to follow to respond to the summons.
● Information on how the person receiving the summons should respond.

Do I Have to Go to Court if I Receive a Summons?

Absolutely. Just like a subpoena, a summons cannot be ignored. It’s both legally binding and crucial to a balanced and fair trial. However, unlike a subpoena you may not be fined or jailed for not appearing in court. The result of your failure to honor the summons would be that the plaintiff gets a default judgement. That said, once the case has been concluded, whatever the judge’s decision is, it is final. Therefore, regardless of whether you think the case and its contents is fair, if you want to protect your interests you need to file a response and appear in court.

Whether you’re embroiled in a court case or thinking of starting a civil case you’ll need your documents served by professionals. It’s something you may overlook if you’re not making your way to court often, but it’s a vital step in the success of your case.

Finding a reliable, meticulous and honest process server is New York City is as easy as hiring a server from Serve Index.

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