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What Is a Deposition Subpoena?

A deposition subpoena compels a witness to provide a statement.
Depositions are given under oath.
A deposition subpoena is a court order to appear at a deposition.
A person serving a deposition subpoena.
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  • Written By: Alexis W.
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 28 July 2014
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A court order to appear at a legal interview is called a deposition subpoena. A deposition is a formal name for an interview in which a prosecutor, plaintiff's attorney, or defense attorney talks to a witness in the case. It occurs before a trial to allow the attorneys to gather evidence they will use to prove elements of their client's cases in court. If a person will not attend a deposition willingly, he may be subpoenaed or requested by the court to do so.

Depositions are important in the legal process because they help attorneys determine how to make their cases. If, for example, a defendant wishes to claim he has an alibi, the alibi must testify in court. The attorneys for both the plaintiff and the defendant may wish to talk to the alibi before the actual day of the trial so they will know what he is going to say and be able to prepare to ask the right questions and plan their case around his statement. The plaintiff, for example, may want to know that the alibi is going to say that he and the accused went to the movies, so the plaintiff can then try to prove that the alibi is lying, perhaps by showing that the movie theater was closed at that time of night.

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There is sufficient importance attached to depositions that a person who is interviewed in one must be sworn in and is under oath. Lying in a deposition can subject a person to perjury charges. As such, if a person does not wish to come to a deposition and he is going to be called as a witness in court, a deposition subpoena may be appropriate.

To obtain a subpoena, the plaintiff, prosecutor, or defense attorney must go to the judge in charge of the case and explain that he wishes to depose the particular witness. He may have to tell the judge why he believes the deposition is important or what he is hoping to obtain from the deposition. The judge will then consider whether it is fair and in the best interest of justice to command that the witness receive a deposition subpoena. If the judge decides to issue one, the subpoena will be served on the person requested to come to the deposition. That person will then have to comply with the court's order in the subpoena and attend the deposition or he can be subject to contempt of court and fined or jailed.

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Discuss this Article

anon312041
Post 6

I've been studying all possible information about Deposition Subpoena and this one here is valuable for my studies. I've been in this task recently. I need this for my reports.

anon284500
Post 5

I have been subpoenaed by the plaintiff but am being deposed as a representative of the defendant.

I am a former employee of the defendant and have information that I feel should be offered that would help the plaintiff.

I am concerned that the right questions will not be asked by the plaintiff's attorney.

Is there a way to offer this information, or possibly lead an attorney to ask the questions that I feel may help their case?

JimmyT
Post 4

One thing I have to wonder about a deposition subpoena is how often they are issued. Are deposition subpoenas issued every time that someone needs to show up to a deposition interview, just so they know how important it is and they are required to be there, or do lawyers usually just contact them saying they need to be interviewed and just save the subpoenas for people that are difficult?

jcraig
Post 3

@matthewc23 - Yes that is a good point. Say that a lawyer were to be interviewing someone that they knew was guilty of some charge in the past but was wrongfully found not guilty, they could trick the person into committing perjury.

Because of this fact I have to imagine that the lawyer is required by law to make sure that the person knows that they are under oath in the interview.

Think of it this way. If someone were to receive a deposition subpoena, requiring that by law they have to show up to be interviewed by a lawyer for a case, then that means that it is something serious and they should take note of it. They would not go through the trouble of issuing subpoenas if the person were to be able to say whatever they want to the lawyer, so common sense dictates that they must be truthful and honest if the courts are going through this much trouble to interview them.

matthewc23
Post 2

@stl156 - I have to imagine that attorney's have to tell whoever they talk to in a deposition interview that they are under oath. If they do not tell them then someone would not realize the seriousness of what they say and they may not necessarily lie but simply just go with whatever the attorney says if they either do not care about the case or do not want to become involved.

I can also see a deposition interview being abused by a bad attorney, and could use it to their advantage to try and get someone tried for perjury if they were not required to tell them that that they were under oath during the interview, say the attorney and interviewee had a history in court together.

stl156
Post 1

After reading this article I have to wonder how many people go into a deposition interview thinking that they can say whatever they want and have no consequences.

I can imagine that they instituted this rule of law to keep people from lying to attorneys, by saying one thing, and once at trial, knowing they are under oath, they say something completely different and totally ruin the case.

I really wonder if attorneys are required to tell the person in a deposition interview that they are under oath in order to ensure that problems do not occur and someone gets tried for perjury because they did not know they were under oath.

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