In a lawsuit, the parties have the right to conduct a formal investigation to discover more information to help bolster their case or their defense.
This is called pre-trial discovery. A deposition is part of the discovery process. The deposition is set up by the attorney whereby a party or third-party witness is asked questions and answers them under oath.
A subpoena is a court-ordered demand that requests that a person produce specific documents or requests that a person appear in court or other legal proceeding to give under-oath testimony.
A deposition subpoena requires that a non-party testify or produce documents during pre-trial discovery in a deposition.
The deposition takes place outside the courtroom, typically in a lawyer’s office, whereby the parties’ attorneys can ask questions of the third-party. The person is sworn to answer all questions under penalty of perjury.
Deposition subpoenas can be difficult to read. The subpoena will contain the following information:
- The name of the court from which the subpoena was issued;
- Who will conduct the deposition, including the attorney’s office which set your deposition and therefore will conduct the deposition;
- The date, time, and location of your deposition; and
- What documents to bring, which can include anything from medical records, video recordings, pictures and anything else that may be related to the case.
If you receive a deposition subpoena, it must be accompanied by a Notice of Deposition to be valid. The Notice of Deposition will include the date, time, and location of the deposition, and it must be issued in advance of the deposition. States differ with regard to the advance notice requirement, but it typically is around 14 days before the deposition.
If you receive a valid deposition subpoena with Notice of Deposition, then you must attend the deposition. If you are unavailable on the date or time the deposition is scheduled to take place, you can reschedule the deposition with the attorney who scheduled it. If you fail to appear for your scheduled deposition, you may receive a court order to appear to testify.
Who will be in attendance at your scheduled deposition can vary, but generally, all parties’ attorneys as well as a court reporter will be at the deposition. The court reporter will transcribe spoken or recorded speech into written form.
Yes, you must answer all the questions, and you must answer truthfully, as you will be giving your deposition under oath.
If you have received a deposition subpoena, contact an attorney to prepare you for the deposition and to appear at the deposition with you. A local civil attorney will defend your rights and ensure that you do not provide any answers that might expose you to liability in the lawsuit.
If you wait to retain a lawyer and then fail to answer questions during the deposition because you suddenly realize you need attorney representation, you can be held in contempt of court.