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Note: The comments and questions on this page came from people who visited this website. Please feel free to send your comments and questions to Professor Brenner (brenner@udayton.edu). She will respond privately, and may ask permission to post your message on this page. No one's e-mail will be used without first obtaining their permission, and names and e-mail addresses are removed before a comment is posted. Starting in 2002, the responses posted to the site indicate which of us replied: The initials SWB mean Professor Brenner wrote the response; the initials LES mean Professor Shaw wrote the response. We are also putting the year down, to indicate when the response was posted. If no initials appear, Professor Brenner wrote the response.

I=ve been subpoenaed--what happens if I don=t show up?

I=ve been subpoenaed. If I don't go what can happen to me?

Response: You can be held in contempt - typically, the court that supervises the grand jury which issued the subpoena will issue an order holding you in civil contempt, which means you will be sanctioned (usually by being incarcerated) until you are willing to comply with the subpoena. As an alternative, you could be held in criminal contempt, which means you would be fined or incarcerated for failing to obey the subpoena; prosecutors usually prefer civil contempt, though, because it's more effective in coercing the witness to comply with the subpoena.

Can I be forced to answer questions if I invoke the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination?

Response: If you validly invoke the Fifth Amendment privilege (which you can only do if answering a question would provide evidence that could be used to convict you of a crime), the prosecutor cannot force you to answer unless he/she gives you immunity. Once you have been given immunity, you can be forced to answer, since you no longer have a Fifth Amendment privilege. (That is, the Fifth Amendment only protects you from being forced to give answers that can be used as evidence against you in a criminal case; by giving you immunity, the government promises not to use your answers against you, so you don't need the privilege. . . .Or so the courts say).

What other rights do I have under the Constitution, that I should be aware of?

Response: That depends on your situation. You need to get a lawyer to advise you with regard to the subpoena. If you can afford one, ask your local bar association to recommend a good private attorney; if you can't afford private counsel, contact the court that supervises the grand jury (it's the district court mentioned on the subpoena) and/or the local Federal Public Defender's Office to see about getting appointed counsel.

You absolutely should get a lawyer - everything I said above is general advice, and the best route for you to take depends on the specific facts of your situation.

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