Depending on what you were served with, you now have some obligations in a legal sense. Some types of serves are:

Subpoena Duces Tecum (Most Common)

A subpoena duces tecum is a type of subpoena that requires the witness to produce a document or documents pertinent to a proceeding. You may be required to send copies of paperwork or other types of materials to another party or the court. You may also be required to appear with said documents in front of the court. Other examples of subpoenas may include requests for:

Blood test information
DNA samples
Computer files and downloaded material
Medical bills & insurance records
Income tax returns
Photographs, graphs, & charts
Employee records

Anything and/or listed in the document

How to Respond to a Subpoena

The first thing you should do if you receive a subpoena is not ignore it. A subpoena is part of a court’s legal process and failure to respond to a subpoena is considered contempt of court in most states.

The next step is to read through the subpoena to determine what is being requested and/or who is being asked to appear. Subpoena requests for documents and other items are usually very detailed and specific. Also, you should make sure to protect and keep any documents in your possession safe.

Lastly, you should look to see who is requesting the information and for what purpose, so you can adequately prepare for any testimony you are required to give at a trial or other proceeding. Finally, you should check the hearing date and time to avoid potential penalties and other consequences.

A person who receives a subpoena should otherwise consult with an attorney, who may assist you if you need more time to gather the information or have any questions about what is being asked of you.


Respondent in a Civil Suit

Unlike criminal cases that are brought up by a district attorney, prosecutor, or an agent of the state, civil cases are lodged by one person or entity. Often, monetary compensation for damages is limited in civil cases, and there are special rules that apply as to the type of admissible evidence and what exactly must be proven for a defendant or plaintiff to win. With the exception of small claims court, an attorney can provide legal representation in a civil case.

If you are sued, you become a defendant. The first thing that happens is that you are served with a complaint or a petition (depending on the type of case). This document is served by an officer of the court (a sheriff’s deputy, for example).

Sometimes the document requires you to appear in court. This would happen in a small claims court case. In other types of lawsuits (a divorce case, for example), you would have to file a document in response.

The first thing you must do is to reply to this document within the required amount of time (30 days, for example). If you don’t respond within the required time period, the plaintiff has the right to file for a judgment against you. Basically, you can lose the case by default if you don’t respond.

The Civil Lawsuit Process
In a civil lawsuit – one person against another – the plaintiff and defendant typically each get an attorney and the case proceeds after both parties have received notice.

Defendant in Small Claims Court
If you are the defendant in a small claims case, you don’t need an attorney. Prepare thoroughly and show up on the appointed date with all the records you can find to defend your case.

One option is to contact

Southwest Virginia Legal Aid Society

Monday thru Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to Noon and from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.


Friday from 8:30 am to 12:30 p.m.



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