A subpoena is an order requiring a person to appear in court, usually for trial. This page provides answers to many questions we often receive related to subpoenas, what happens when you are served with one, and various other questions you might have. If you do not see an answer to your question, please contact our office.
What is a “subpoena duces tecum?”
A subpoena duces tecum is just like a regular subpoena in that it requires a person to appear in court, but in addition, it requires the person to bring the listed items to court with them. If a child is required to appear in court, the child’s parent/guardian will receive a subpoena duces tecum requiring the parent/guardian to bring the child to court.
I’ve been served with a subpoena. What happens if I fail to appear as ordered?
Failure to appear pursuant to a lawfully issued subpoena is punishable by Contempt of Court, which can include a fine or even up to six months in the county jail. If you fail to appear pursuant to the subpoena, a judge will send the Sheriff to find you and bring you before the court, which usually means you will be arrested. One way or another, you will appear in court if you have been subpoenaed so it is best to honor the subpoena and appear as ordered.
My subpoena says to call for a pre-trial interview. What should I do?
Call (859) 292-6580 to schedule an interview with the assigned prosecutor. The call taker will need to know the name of the defendant and/or the case number that appears on your subpoena. Subpoenas are often issued months in advance of trial so your interview may not take place for some time. You should still, however, call right away. If your address or phone number(s) change, be sure to call the prosecutor to update your information. If your information is not up-to-date, you may not receive notice if trial is cancelled or continued for any reason.
I have a scheduling conflict on the date I’ve been subpoenaed; what should I do?
Every subpoena lists the name and phone number of the issuing attorney. Contact the attorney as soon as possible to report the conflict.
I’ve been subpoenaed by the defense; what should I do?
Defendants are just as entitled to issue subpoenas as the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Failure to honor a subpoena issued by the defense can subject you to the same sanctions as failing to appear for any other subpoena. If you receive a subpoena from the defense, please contact the prosecutor assigned to your case and let him or her know.
Do I have to testify in front of the defendant?
Yes. A defendant has a constitutional right to confront his accusers, which means they can hear what witnesses have to say. In limited circumstances, a prosecutor can ask the judge to shield a child witness from seeing the defendant or allow the child to testify via closed circuit television. Ultimately, it is up to the judge to decide if the child is entitled to such accommodations. For additional information about child accommodations, contact the Victim’s Advocate.
What if I’ve been threatened or am just afraid to testify?
If you feel your safety is at immediate risk, CALL 911! If you are threatened or harassed, call police immediately. It is important to document any inappropriate behavior, as soon as possible, so it can be stopped.
It is common for witnesses to be apprehensive about testifying in court. The Kenton County Sheriff’s Department provides excellent courthouse security, and there are bailiffs in every courtroom. Retaliation against witnesses is actually very rare. Nevertheless, every effort will be made to ensure you feel comfortable and safe during your trip to court, including escorting you to/from your vehicle, if needed. Just make the assigned prosecutor and/or Victim’s Advocate aware of any concerns you have. If anything happens in the courthouse to make you feel threatened, report it to a Sheriff’s Deputy immediately. If anything happens after you leave the courthouse, call police immediately.
What is a Grand Jury subpoena?
The Grand Jury is a body of twelve Kenton County residents empanelled to determine whether there is probable cause to charge a defendant with a felony. The Grand Jury meets in secret, meaning the proceedings are not open to the public. The Grand Jury is the only time a defendant is not permitted to be present for sworn testimony from a witness. If a defendant is indicted for a felony, he or she will eventually receive a recording of the Grand Jury testimony, if so requested. Failure to appear pursuant to a lawfully issued Grand Jury subpoena is punishable by the same Contempt of Court sanctions, including jail time, as any other subpoena. The Grand Jury meets every Thursday at 9:00am on the 8th Floor of the Kenton County Justice Center.
Can I bring someone to court with me?
You may bring friends or relatives with you to court, and they can probably sit in the courtroom while you testify, unless they are also witnesses. (Witnesses testify one at a time and generally wait outside the courtroom for their turn. This is called “sequestration.”) Our Victim’s Advocate may also be with you, if you request.
How long will I be in court?
The length of time it takes you to testify depends on your role in the case. Once the prosecutor is done asking questions, the defense attorney may ask questions as well. Some witnesses are done in a few minutes; other witnesses spend hours in the courtroom. If you have contacted your assigned prosecutor in advance, he or she will do their best to minimize the time you spend waiting to testify, but almost every witness will spend some time waiting outside the courtroom. You may want to bring a magazine or book to help pass the time.
What if my employer won’t let me off work to testify?
If you are lawfully subpoenaed to court, an employer cannot prevent court attendance. When appropriate, the Commonwealth’s Attorney Office will contact your employer to discuss the importance of your role as a witness and/or the legal ramifications of tampering with a witness. We can also provide you with a note, on office letterhead, confirming the days or hours when you were in court.
What if I need an interpreter?
Foreign language interpreters and interpreters for the hearing- or speech-impaired are available. If you are in need of interpreting services while in attendance at court, contact the assigned prosecutor or Victim’s Advocate as soon as possible.
If I have been subpoenaed, am I required to talk to the defense attorney or defense investigator before court?
You are not required to talk to anyone on either side of a case except in court, under oath, pursuant to a subpoena. If you decide to speak to the defense attorney or the defense investigator, be aware that anything you say can be used against you when you testify in court. If you do not feel comfortable speaking with the defense alone, contact the assigned prosecutor who will gladly be present for the meeting. If you do not want to speak with someone, just tell them and walk away. If you have questions, feel free to call the assigned prosecutor.