Deposition Subpoena

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 What Is a Deposition?

A deposition is a part of the discovery process in a lawsuit where one party is allowed to question another party under oath. The deposition can cover any matter that is relevant to the dispute at hand, and the testimony is recorded verbatim by a court reporter. This record can later be used in court, particularly if the person being deposed changes their story or cannot remember what they previously stated.

What Is a Subpoena?

A subpoena is a legal document issued by a court to compel a person to do something, such as testify in a case or produce documents or other tangible evidence. Failure to comply with a subpoena can result in penalties, including a charge of contempt of court, which can carry fines or even jail time.

What Is a Deposition Subpoena?

A subpoena for a deposition is a specific type of subpoena that compels a person to appear and give sworn testimony at a deposition. This is usually done before a trial to gather information that may be useful in the upcoming court case.

What Information Is on the Deposition Subpoena?

A deposition subpoena typically contains information about when and where the deposition will take place, the name of the person who is expected to testify, the subject matter of the deposition, and instructions for what the person must do in response to the subpoena. It might also include any specific documents or other items that the person is being asked to bring to the deposition.

Here are some examples of the type of information that might be included in a deposition subpoena:

When and Where the Deposition Will Take Place

This is usually a specific date and time, along with a location. For instance, the subpoena may state, “Deposition will take place on September 1, 2023, at 10:00 AM at the law offices of Smith & Associates, 123 Main St, Your City, Your State.”

Name of the Person Expected to Testify

This is the person who is being subpoenaed. It might read, “The presence is required of John Doe.”

Subject Matter of the Deposition

This could be a brief description of the case and the topics that the person will be asked about. For example, “The deposition concerns the car accident that occurred on January 1, 2023, at the intersection of 1st and 2nd Street.”

Instructions for Responding to the Subpoena

These are directions for what the person needs to do, such as “You are commanded to appear at the date, time, and location above to testify. Please bring with you any and all documents relating to the accident.”

Specific Documents or Other Items to Bring

This might include specific things that are relevant to the case. For example, in a car accident case, it might say, “Please bring any photographs of the damage to your vehicle, any medical records related to injuries you suffered in the accident, and any communications you had with the other party or the insurance companies about the accident.”

Must I Attend the Deposition?

If you receive a deposition subpoena, you are legally required to attend and participate in the deposition. Failure to do so could result in being held in contempt of court. However, there are situations in which you can challenge the subpoena or request to change the deposition’s time or place. It’s best to consult with an attorney if you have concerns about attending a deposition.

Contempt of Court

Contempt of court refers to any conduct that disrespects or obstructs the functioning of the court. In the context of a deposition, if a person fails to appear after being properly served with a deposition subpoena, the court may hold that person in contempt.

Penalties can range from fines to imprisonment. For instance, a witness who deliberately skips a deposition without a valid reason may be fined by the court or, in severe cases, even face jail time until they agree to testify.

Challenging or Requesting a Change

There are situations where you might be able to challenge the subpoena or request a change.

These include:

  • Inconvenient Timing: If the deposition is scheduled at a time that genuinely causes you hardship, you may ask the court to reschedule. For instance, if you’re a teacher and the deposition is set during school hours, you could request to have it moved to after school or during a break.
  • Short Notice: If you’re given the subpoena with insufficient time to arrange your affairs or consult with an attorney, you can challenge the subpoena. For instance, if you are served a subpoena late on Friday for a deposition set for Monday morning, that could be considered short notice.
  • Irrelevant or Unnecessary Testimony: If you believe that your testimony isn’t relevant to the case, or if you think you’re being called as a witness merely to harass you, you may challenge the subpoena. For instance, if you’re being called to testify in a business dispute about a conversation you didn’t witness and know nothing about, you might argue that your testimony is irrelevant and unnecessary.

Who Will Be at the Deposition?

Typically, the people present at a deposition include the person being deposed, attorneys for all parties involved, and a court reporter who records the proceedings. Sometimes, the parties themselves will also be present.

Must I Answer All Questions?

During a deposition, you are generally required to answer all questions truthfully to the best of your ability. However, there are exceptions. For instance, you can refuse to answer questions that invade your privacy, are irrelevant to the case, or seek information protected by privilege (like attorney-client privilege). If you’re unsure whether to answer a question, an attorney can provide guidance.

Invasion of Privacy

This can be a complex area, but generally, you may refuse to answer questions that delve into highly personal, sensitive, or intimate areas of your life that have no relevance to the case at hand.

For example, if you are being deposed in a business dispute and the opposing counsel asks about your medical history or your marital status, these questions may be considered an invasion of privacy if they have no bearing on the case.


You may refuse to answer questions that have no relevance to the facts or issues in the case. If the deposition is about a contract dispute and the opposing attorney starts asking about your political views or what you ate for breakfast, you could object on the grounds that these questions are irrelevant to the case.


Certain relationships and communications are protected by law, and you can refuse to answer questions that seek information protected by these privileges. For example, conversations between you and your attorney are generally protected by attorney-client privilege.

Similarly, communications between you and your spouse can also be protected under the spousal privilege. If the opposing counsel asks you to reveal what you discussed with your attorney about the case, you can refuse to answer based on attorney-client privilege.

Do I Need an Attorney?

Having an attorney present at a deposition can be very beneficial. An attorney can help you understand your rights, prepare for the deposition, object to inappropriate questions, and ensure that the deposition is conducted fairly and lawfully. If you’ve been served with a deposition subpoena, it may be in your best interest to consult with a legal professional.

Don’t face a deposition alone. At LegalMatch, you can find a skilled civil lawyer who can help you navigate this crucial part of the legal process. Visit LegalMatch today to find the right lawyer for your needs.

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