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Subpoena to testify in a criminal trial in another state

Tustin, CA |

My first question is when a subpoena is served by the DA of one state on a resident of CA how does the subpoena need to be served (e.g. mail, in person)? This is a subpoena that is going to be served on me (in CA) from another state. This state wants my testimony in a criminal matter. I am disabled and cannot travel to another state. Once served in CA can I go before a local judge to prove undue hardship (e.g. letters from physicians)? Also note this is a death penalty trial and the state serving the subpoena does not have any type of witness protection and I also can't remember much regarding the event.

Concerning the first they have to serve me in person or can they simply have the subpoena left with someone else? Thanks for everyone's helpful response(s). Wow...seems as though witness(s) do not have any protections (unless one is the victim of a sexual crime)., but criminal defendants have loads of rights.

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Attorney answers 5


If you are validly served PERSONALLY and not by mail, you have to appear or a warrant may be issued for your arrest. I suggest retaining counsel to deal with the subpoena. Going to a local judge won't do any good because a local judge has nothing to do with the subpoena. The issuing state has to provide you with travel expenses, including plane or bus fare, motel expenses and food.

The information and legal suggestions made herein do not in any way create an attorney-client relationship. The responses provided herein discuss general principles of law and should not be relied upon by the asker in making legal decisions. Only an attorney who has met with the asker and fully reviewed the facts and circumstances of the asker's individual case should be relied upon for legal advice. If you find my suggestions helpful, please mark the appropriate box as helpful.



Hello, Thanks for the response. My question is by law, do they have to serve me in person? The issue is I can't travel due to medical reasons. The other state is over 2K miles away. Heart and lung issues prevent me from flying. If I get on a plane, literally, I will die. My questions are based on the Uniform Act.

Joseph Salvatore Farina

Joseph Salvatore Farina


Yes. They have to serve you in person. Many times when people get a subpoena in the mail they call the DA and guess what, you've admitted receipt of the subpoena land you've been served. If you get a subpoena, do not call to let them know you got the subpoena.


A subpoena must be served personally. DAs often serve subpoenas by mail and ask you to call to acknowledge receipt. If you do that a Court may consider you served.

Beyond that there is a procedure that must be followed when another state wants to command your presence in their courts. This usually involves getting a CA court to issue a subpoena commanding your attendance and personal service.

If your health is truly a concern you need an attorney to help you deal with this.


Personal service is required. Forget about local courts, they have no jurisdiction. Seek counsel.


Hire an attorney. Dont speak to DAs or law enforcement who may wish to trap you into acknowledging that you received a mailed subpoena (which isn't sufficient). An attorney will advise you further on how to legally avoid having to testify in this matter. Don't try to handle this yourself, by going to court and attempting to prove "undue hardship". This won't work and may end up acting as a waiver of any right you have to legally avoid testifying. Since this is a state court trial, you most likely will not be provided any witness protection that you might need in a serious death penalty case. Beat of luck


A subpoena mailed or personally delivered from an out of state court has no legal effect in the State of California. A lawful order requiring out of state attendance at a trail requires the party seeking attendance of the witness to obtain or order from a court of lawful jurisdiction in the state where the witness resides compelling the witness to attend trail in the other state.

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