What Happens if I Get Subpoenaed in Salt Lake City and Don’t Show Up to Court?

Put simply, a subpoena is a court order. The recipient might be required to appear in court to give testimony, or might be asked to supply certain documents for inspection by the court. In this article, Salt Lake City criminal defense lawyer Darwin Overson will explain how and why subpoenas are used, and what can happen if you don’t obey one.

How is a Subpoena Used in a Salt Lake City Criminal Case?

Subpoenas are issued by court clerks, who are responsible for maintaining court records. Once the subpoena has been issued, it can be served upon the recipient by a sheriff, a constable, a U.S. Marshal, or anyone else who’s at least 18 years old, as long as he or she isn’t an attorney working on the case.

If the subpoena specifically requires the recipient to show up and testify at a deposition, the intended recipient must be given advance notice before the subpoena itself may be served. The term deposition refers to oral testimony given outside the courtroom, often in an attorney’s office. The purpose of a deposition is to determine what facts the witness knows, so that the attorney can build the strongest case possible in preparation for the trial.

Once the subpoena and appropriate attachments have been served on the recipient, the person who requested the subpoena receives written confirmation. This confirmation includes the time and place of delivery, and identifies the person who served the subpoena.

Subpoenas are an important part of both civil and criminal cases. Rules for the use of subpoenas in criminal cases are outlined in Rule 14 of the Utah Rules of Criminal Procedure. Rule 14 can overlap with Rule 45 of the Rules of Civil Procedure, as long as “[the relevant] provisions are consistent with the Utah Rules of Criminal Procedure.”

Here are some important parts of Rule 14 which defendants and their loved ones should be aware of:

  • Rule 14(a)(5) states that a subpoena can force you to appear in court no matter where you live in Utah.
  • Rule 14(a)(2) states that “the court may quash or modify the subpoena if compliance would be unreasonable.” Acceptable grounds for objecting to a subpoena include the following:
    • You would have to break a confidentiality agreement, though there are some limitations. For instance, as we discussed in a previous post, therapists are required to break confidentiality in certain cases.
    • You don’t have enough time to respond to and comply with the subpoena.
      The subpoena imposes an unreasonable burden or hardship upon you.
  • Rule 14(a)(8) makes exceptions for (1) people who are planning on leaving the state, and (2) people who are so seriously ill that they cannot attend the hearing or trial noted by the subpoena. However, even if this is the case, the person will still be required to appear at a deposition. As the rule states, “Attendance of the witness at the deposition may be compelled by subpoena. The defendant shall be present at the deposition and the court shall make whatever order is necessary to effect such attendance.”

Can I Get Arrested for Ignoring a Subpoena in Utah?

This next point is one of the most important: under Rule 14(a)(7), “Failure to obey a subpoena without reasonable excuse may be deemed a contempt of the court responsible for its issuance.” This can be a serious legal problem for the person who fails to comply with the subpoena, because contempt of court is a criminal offense under Utah Code § 78B-6-310.

If a person commits contempt of court, he or she may be fined up to $1,000, and/or may be sentenced to up to 30 days in jail. In some cases, the judge may decide to be lenient and imposed a reduced fine of $500 and a jail sentence of five days, though it is unwise to depend on this outcome.

The judiciary is proactive when it comes to tracking down witnesses who attempt to dodge mandatory court appearances. Rule 45(h) provides the following:

“If a witness evades service of a subpoena or fails to attend after service of a subpoena, the court may issue a warrant to the sheriff of the county to arrest the witness and bring the witness before the court.”

Even being in jail doesn’t remove responsibility for making an appearance. Under Rule 45(i), “If the witness is a prisoner, a party may move for an order to examine the witness in the jail or prison or to produce the witness before the court… for the purpose of being orally examined.”

salt lake attorneys

If someone you love was arrested in Salt Lake City, you need a skilled and knowledgeable criminal attorney on your family’s side in court. Attorney Darwin Overson has over 16 years of experience handling an array of misdemeanor and felony charges on behalf of adults and juveniles, including sex offenses, theft, and drug crimes.

To set up a free, completely private legal consultation with Darwin, call the law offices of Overson Law LLC at (801) 758-2287. Our defense attorneys are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and are prepared to make emergency jail or holding visits if necessary.