A subpoena is a court order that requires a person to appear before a court, and testify, or produce specified evidence. A person who receives a subpoena but fails to comply with it may be charged with contempt of court and be subjected to civil or criminal proceedings.
A subpoena must be served on the person ordered to appear. In some states, a law enforcement officer personally has to serve it, whereas other states allow it to be served by mail or a telephone call.
The rules controlling subpoenas in Federal matters are found in Rule 17 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure and Rule 45 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
See also: subpoena duces tecum
[Last updated in August of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]