18 Sep 23

Subpoenaed by the Government? Understanding Administrative Subpoenas

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Last Updated on: 2nd October 2023, 05:52 pm

Subpoenaed by the Government? Understanding Administrative Subpoenas

Getting an administrative subpoena from the government can be scary and confusing. This article will explain what administrative subpoenas are, why you might get one, what your rights are, and what to do if you get subpoenaed. We’ll discuss this in a simple, conversational way to make it easier to understand.

What is an Administrative Subpoena?

An administrative subpoena is a legal order from a government agency demanding that you provide information or documents to them1. It’s basically the government’s way of getting information from you without having to go to court first. Administrative subpoenas are different from regular subpoenas that come from courts – those require a judge’s approval first. But with administrative subpoenas, the government agency can issue it themselves without asking a judge.

Some examples of federal agencies that can issue administrative subpoenas include2:

  • FBI
  • DEA
  • IRS
  • SEC
  • Federal Trade Commission

So if one of these agencies is investigating you, they might slap you with an administrative subpoena to get information from you directly, without having to build a court case first.

Why Would You Get an Administrative Subpoena?

There’s a few main reasons why a government agency might subpoena you3:

  • You’re the target of an investigation – they think you did something illegal
  • You’re a witness in an investigation – they want info from you about someone else
  • You have documents or data that are relevant to an investigation

For example, if the FBI is investigating your company for fraud, they might slap you with a subpoena demanding all your financial records. Or if the DEA is investigating your friend for drug trafficking, they might subpoena you asking for info about your friend’s activities.

The bottom line is: if a government agency wants information from you for an investigation, they can force you to provide it using an administrative subpoena. They don’t need to prove anything to a judge first.

What Are Your Rights When Getting Subpoenaed?

Even though administrative subpoenas don’t require court approval, you still have some rights4:

  • You can negotiate the scope of the subpoena. For example, asking for more time to respond.
  • You can object to the subpoena if you think it’s invalid or too burdensome.
  • You can get legal help from an attorney to protect your rights.
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However, you usually can’t just ignore or “quash” an administrative subpoena like you could a regular subpoena. Because it didn’t come from a court, a judge won’t help you quash it.

If you refuse to comply with an administrative subpoena, the agency can take you to court and get a judicial subpoena forcing you to comply. So it’s best to negotiate or object properly instead of ignoring it.

What Should You Do if You Get Subpoenaed?

Here are some tips if you get slapped with an administrative subpoena5:

  1. Don’t panic – getting subpoenaed sounds scarier than it is.
  2. Read it carefully – make sure you understand what they’re asking for.
  3. Negotiate – ask for more time or a narrower request if needed.
  4. Get legal help – contact a lawyer to protect your rights.
  5. Comply – you’ll have to provide something, but your lawyer can help minimize it.
  6. Don’t delete anything – destroying documents after getting subpoenaed can lead to obstruction charges.

The most important thing is don’t ignore an administrative subpoena. Get legal help to negotiate with the agency and figure out the best way to comply without compromising your rights.

In Summary…

Administrative subpoenas can be intimidating, but understanding how they work takes away a lot of the scariness. Get educated on your rights and options. And if you ever get served with one, stay calm, get legal advice, negotiate with the agency, and comply intelligently. Handled properly, it’s just a routine legal process – not the end of the world!