21 Jan 24

How Long Do You Have to Comply With a Federal Subpoena? Key Deadlines

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Last Updated on: 21st January 2024, 10:46 pm

How Long Do You Have to Comply With a Federal Subpoena? Key Deadlines

Receiving a federal subpoena can be intimidating. You may have many questions about what it means and what your responsibilities are. This article provides an overview of federal subpoenas, how much time you have to comply, and key deadlines you need to know.

What is a Federal Subpoena?

A federal subpoena is a writ or legal document issued under the authority of a federal court or federal agency such as the FBI or SEC. It compels you to produce documents, appear and testify, or both, at a specific time and place.Failure to comply with a federal subpoena can result in civil or criminal contempt charges. So it’s important to take it seriously.

Time to Comply with a Document Subpoena

If you receive a federal subpoena requesting that you produce documents or records, you typically have 14 days to gather and deliver the information. The 14 days are counted from the date you receive the subpoena.However, the subpoena will specify the deadline. Carefully check the “Date and Time” section which lists the exact date by which you must comply. Sometimes federal agencies allow more or less time depending on the circumstances.It’s essential to meet the production deadline. If you need more time, immediately contact the issuing agency to request an extension. Extensions may be granted if you show reasonable cause.

Time to Comply with a Testimonial Subpoena

A testimonial subpoena orders you to appear and provide testimony at a specific date, time, and place. For this type of subpoena, you must comply on the precise date listed.You can request the federal agency quash or modify the subpoena if appearing would cause undue burden. But you have to make this request before the appearance date.If you miss the date without obtaining a waiver, you can be held in contempt of court. Fines and jail time are potential penalties.

Requesting More Time to Comply

As mentioned above, if you need more time to comply with any federal subpoena, immediately contact the issuing agency to explain why you can’t meet the deadline and request an extension.Reasons that may justify an extension include:

  • The 14-day window is unreasonable based on the scope of documents requested
  • You need to hire a lawyer to assist with compliance
  • Documents must be collected from long-term storage or multiple locations
  • You will be out of town and unable to comply in the time given
  • Illness or disability prevents timely compliance

The key is showing that you cannot comply for practical reasons, despite good faith efforts. Extensions are often granted when the request demonstrates real hardship or impossibility.That said, don’t ignore the subpoena while waiting to hear back about an extension request. Continue gathering responsive documents just in case the request is denied.

Consequences of Failing to Comply with a Federal Subpoena

If you don’t produce the requested documents or testimony within the allotted response time, you could face prosecution for contempt of court. Penalties may include:

  • Fines, which can reach into the tens of thousands of dollars
  • Jail time, typically up to 18 months imprisonment
  • Reimbursement of the government’s costs for bringing the enforcement action against you

In some cases, noncompliance results in the issuing agency pursuing a bench warrant for your arrest.Don’t assume you can merely pay a small fine. Judges tend to impose harsh sanctions for subpoena noncompliance to deter others from disregarding federal orders.

Obtaining Legal Counsel

Because federal subpoenas invoke serious penalties, consulting an attorney experienced with federal cases is wise. Legal counsel can:

  • Review the subpoena to clarify what you must produce
  • Negotiate with the issuing agency for reasonable modifications
  • Assist with compiling and delivering documents
  • File motions to quash or limit the subpoena scope
  • Defend you if contempt charges are pursued

Think carefully before ignoring a federal subpoena. The issuing agency likely won’t forget, and penalties add up quickly. Instead, work proactively with legal counsel to object to unduly burdensome requests or seek reasonable extensions.