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A subpoena is a court order that compels a party to appear in court or produce documents or records. For example, a party may subpoena bank, phone, criminal, or sometimes even medical records. While there are many different types of records a party to a case may need to secure, the steps a person will take to subpoena records is usually about the same. In most places, a person must visit the court clerk in order to secure a subpoena and then serve the subpoena according to the requirements of the particular court system.
The first step a person may take when he wants to subpoena records is contacting the court in which his case will be heard and learning the specific requirements the court has for people who want to subpoena records; the guidelines may vary from court system to court system. In many places, however, a person has to visit his local court house and request a subpoena form, which is called a subpoena duces tecum. In some places, a person may be able to go online and download his jurisdiction's form instead of going to his courthouse to pick one up.
Next, a person has to complete the subpoena form. This usually involves filling in pertinent details, such as the name and address of the person or business who will receive the subpoena, the name and address of the court in which the case will be heard, the case document number, and the date by which the records are needed. The party who is requesting the subpoena also lists the records he needs, being as specific as possible, naming the records he needs, and listing their record numbers, if possible.
After the subpoena form is filled out, the person who is requesting the records may need to have the subpoena form notarized. Then, he'll usually need to have the subpoena signed by the judge or court commissioner. In some places, a party may be able to serve the subpoena soon after completing this process. In others, however, the requester may have to wait for a period of time in order to see whether the other party will object to the subpoena.
Once the subpoena is drafted and signed, there's one last step for a person who wants to subpoena records. The person who needs the records has to ensure that the receiving party is served in accordance with the laws of his jurisdiction. In some cases, this will mean arranging for the sheriff's department to provide service. In others, a person may pay a professional process server to perform this task. Additionally, some laws allow for subpoenas to be served by any person over 18 years old who is not a party to the case.