How Do I Quash a Subpoena?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

You can quash a subpoena by filing a motion to nullify the court’s demand. This isn’t always successful, and the person making the appeal must have a legally acceptable excuse. The jurisdiction and policies of specific courts dictate what excuses are legally sound, and they determine the format of the motion to quash. Sometimes people can easily craft a motion with a form letter, but others are better served if they hire an attorney or, at the least, obtain legal advice before they draft and submit this request.

A subpoena compels the receiver to appear in court on a specific date to give testimony or to produce specific documents that contribute to a legal case.
A subpoena compels the receiver to appear in court on a specific date to give testimony or to produce specific documents that contribute to a legal case.

A subpoena may demand several different things. It can ask a person to appear in court to testify, for example. Alternately, it may request documents that are considered material to an ongoing case. People may seek to quash a subpoena because these court orders aren’t always convenient. In some circumstances, complying with them violates personal privacy or the breaches the presumed confidentiality of certain professional relationships.

Some organizations offer free legal advice via telephone.
Some organizations offer free legal advice via telephone.

Generally, courts recognize several acceptable reasons to quash a subpoena. These include that a request to appear or produce documents is unreasonable. Perhaps the court is a significant distance from home and requires travel. Alternately, the reason could be that the demand for documents doesn’t provide enough time to collect and submit them. In these cases, a motion to quash is typically within reason; attorneys for a case may resubmit a request to appear or get documents at a later point, which gives the subpoenaed person more time to prepare.

In other instances, individuals will file a motion to quash a subpoena because the records being requested violate personal privacy. Alternately, therapists and doctors may make a case not to appear or submit records because this breaks doctor/patient or therapist/client confidentiality rules. Most courts will also accept these motions to quash. There may be additional allowable reasons in each region.

If you have received a subpoena and want or need to quash it, the first step may be contacting the issuing court to find out how this is accomplished. Sometimes making a motion is relatively straightforward and the court can advise on the necessary forms or information that must be included. Other times, completing these requests may be complex and difficult for the legal layperson.

In such cases, obtaining counsel to quash a subpoena might be more effective. Other options are to get legal advice from bar associations or to use free legal services. Lawyers from these agencies may guide clients on the preparation and filing of a motion. Attorneys may also advise on whether a client’s motion is likely to be considered reasonable by a court, and they can help write the most successful arguments for nullifying the court’s demand.

A doctor may quash a subpoena due to doctor-patient confidentiality.
A doctor may quash a subpoena due to doctor-patient confidentiality.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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