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In the state of California, does a subpeona have to be served to the actual recipient?

Sacramento, CA |

In the state of California, does a subpeona have to be served to the actual recipient or can anyone at that actual address receive it? A subpeona meant for met was thrown out of irriation at my roommate. Does this count?

Attorney Answers 3


  1. No, it does not count. A subpoena has to be personally served. Throwing it at your roommate does not make it valid. If you were not personally served you do not have to appear. However, the problem you face is that sometimes an irritated process server will fill out a proof of service that says you were personally served. In that case if you do not appear the court can issue a warrant for your arrest.

    The response given is not intended to create, nor does it create an ongoing duty to respond to questions. The response does not form an attorney-client relationship, nor is it intended to be anything other than the educated opinion of the author. It should not be relied upon as legal advice. The response given is based upon the limited facts provided by the person asking the question. To the extent additional or different facts exist, the response might possibly change. Attorney is licensed to practice law only in the State of California. Responses are based solely on California law unless stated otherwise.


  2. The general rule is that a subpoena has to be personally served. If someone is evading service of the subpoena then the rules lighten up a bit. One case said that service was valid where a server on a motorcycle chased a car down, pulled along side it at a red light and put the papers under the windshield wiper. Other cases have found valid service where the document was thrown at the feet of the person to be served.

    Under the circumstances you describe, I'd want to know if you were present or even in the same house when the subpoena was thrown at your room mate. Had there been previous attempts to serve that you intentionally avoided?

    Even so if the process server signs the return saying you have been served and you want to contest that you'd better have an attorney show up in a special appearance to contest service.

    I would counsel a client not to spend money on contesting service and to honor the subpoena. The cases throwing out service usually happen after a judgment is taken against the person allegedly served and the defendant wants service, and thus the judgment, invalidated.

    These are general principles in a civil context. In a criminal action if the judge thinks you were served and you don't attend whatever it is a warrant could issue for your arrest.


  3. A subpoena must be personally served. You need to move to quash the subpoena for lack of service. This is a special appearance and does not subject you to the jurisdiction of the court.

    Edward J Blum

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