No one wants to receive a subpoena, especially if may involve criminal charges. Even if you are not the target of the investigation, that could change in the course of the investigation. Now is a time when you need legal advice.
A subpoena requires a person to provide testimony or documentation of some kind. Your testimony could be required at a deposition, a hearing, in front of a grand jury or in open court.
What if you’re concerned about your own criminal liability?
It’s illegal to refuse to honor a subpoena. If the subpoena is asking for documents or records, it’s also illegal to destroy or hide them. In some cases, simply failing to retain documents you should have could be considered a crime.
What if you’re concerned that the testimony or evidence you provide will open you up to criminal charges. If you witness an associate committing fraud, for example, you could face conspiracy charges even if you played only a minor role.
You have a Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate yourself. However, you need to get legal advice on when you can invoke that right. Concern about your own criminal liability won’t prevent you from being ordered to testify.
When may a person not have to testify?
Other instances in which someone may be able to avoid providing testimony or evidence. For example:
- If they can claim spousal privilege (since communication between spouses is typically protected under the law). That doesn’t mean someone can’t testify against their spouse if they so choose, however.
- If they have another type of relationship with the defendant where communication is considered privileged – for example, if they were acting as the defendant’s priest, psychiatrist or attorney
If they are not considered competent to testify, for example, because of mental or physical incapacity or because of age. However, even young children can be required to testify if they have relevant information.
You could get into far more trouble for not responding to a subpoena or not providing full and accurate information than if you’d simply complied. However, if you’ve received a subpoena and you’re concerned about implication yourself in criminal activity, it’s best to seek legal guidance from someone who’s not already involved in the case.