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Subpoenas are mandatory orders to deliver testimony

Subpoenas are often mentioned in the Pennsylvania news, but the technical meaning of this legal term may not be understood by everyone. According to Cornell University’s Legal Information Institute, a subpoena is a document that compels a person to provide testimony in some sort of formal legal setting. These written orders often require the person to appear before a court, but can they can also involve other types of proceedings, such as providing testimony for a Congressional inquiry.

The required contents of a subpoena issued in Pennsylvania are described in Rule 107 of the Pennsylvania Code. According to this rule, subpoenas used in criminal cases, such as for drug possession or drug manufacturing, must contain: 

  • The name of the witness being called.
  • The location at which the witness must testify.
  • The date and time at which the witness must appear.
  • Details regarding any materials the witness is required to bring. 
  • The name of the party on whose behalf the person is being called to give testimony.
  • If applicable, the name and contact information for the attorney applying for the subpoena. 

The LII notes that those who do not adhere to the requirements of a subpoena are at risk of being found in contempt of court. This is true in Pennsylvania; Rule 140 of the Pennsylvania Code explains that in this state, those who ignore a subpoena may be subject to contempt proceedings. Punishment for contempt can include a maximum fine of $100. If this is not paid, the person found in contempt may be imprisoned for up to 10 days.  

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