Subpoena Ad Testificandum: Legal Definition, Purpose, Types and Format

What is Subpoena Ad Testificandum?

A Subpoena Ad Testificandum is a judicial order compelling a named individual to appear before a specific court or legal tribunal to provide oral testimony concerning a particular matter under investigation or litigation under the threat of penalties for non-compliance.

Subpoena Ad Testificandum Legal Definition

The Subpoena Ad Testificandum: Demystifying Legal Jargon

The world of law is replete with Latin phrases that, while sounding elegant, can perplex those not schooled in legal parlance.

One such term that frequently appears in the context of legal proceedings, particularly in the realm of litigation, is the “subpoena ad testificandum.” Let’s delve deeper into its meaning, origins, and relevance in the modern judicial system.


At its core, the term “subpoena” is Latin for “under penalty.” Essentially, it is a command that mandates an action under the threat of a penalty for non-compliance. The term “ad testificandum” translates to “for testifying” or “to give testimony.”

Therefore, combined, “subpoena ad testificandum” refers to a legal document that commands an individual to appear and testify in a particular legal proceeding.

Subpoena Ad Testificandum - civil procedure - subpoena law

Understanding the Subpoena Ad Testificandum

While there are other types of subpoenas, the “subpoena ad testificandum” stands out as one of the most fundamental. This is a court order requiring a person to:

  • Appear in court or another specified location: Unlike other legal notices, a subpoena ad testificandum mandates a physical appearance. Ignoring this can lead to legal repercussions.
  • Provide oral testimony: The core objective of this subpoena is to compel an individual to offer verbal evidence regarding a particular matter before the court.

Distinguishing Subpoena Ad Testificandum from Other Subpoenas

To gain a clearer understanding, it’s helpful to differentiate the “subpoena ad testificandum” from another commonly used subpoena – the “subpoena duces tecum.”

While the “subpoena ad testificandum” requires oral testimony, the “subpoena duces tecum” necessitates producing physical evidence.

The Difference between Subpoena Ad Testificandum and Subpoena Duces Tecum

AspectSubpoena Duces TecumSubpoena Ad Testificandum
PurposeTo request documents or recordsTo request personal testimony
Latin Meaning“bring with you under penalty”“bring with you to testify under penalty”
Type of Requested ItemsDocuments, records, tangible itemsTestimony, oral statements
FocusMaterial evidenceWitness’s personal knowledge, observations, and statements
Compliance RequirementProduce and bring specified itemsAttend the hearing and provide testimony
Involvement of PartiesOften targets third partiesUsually involves witnesses
Format of AppearanceGenerally, no need to appear in personThe witness is required to appear in person
Penalty for Non-complianceLegal consequences for failing to produce requested itemsLegal consequences for failing to testify
Common Legal ProceedingsCivil litigation, administrative hearingsCourt trials, depositions, hearings
Subpoena Duces Tecum vs Subpoena Ad Testificandum

Who can issue a Subpoena Ad Testificandum?

Typically, subpoenas, including the “subpoena ad testificandum,” are issued by the court clerk at the request of a party involved in a lawsuit (either the plaintiff or the defendant). In certain jurisdictions, attorneys might also have the authority to issue them under the court’s purview.

The scope of this subpoena is limited to compelling testimony. The person receiving it isn’t usually required to bring any documents or evidence unless also served with a “subpoena duces tecum.”

Consequences of Ignoring a Subpoena Ad Testificandum

Ignoring or refusing to comply with a subpoena can have grave consequences. The court can hold an individual in contempt for not adhering to the subpoena’s requirements. Potential penalties include:

  • Fines: A monetary penalty imposed on the individual for non-compliance.
  • Imprisonment: In extreme cases, the court might order jail time or repeated non-compliance.
  • Other Sanctions: Depending on the jurisdiction and the nature of the case, the court may impose other appropriate sanctions.

Can You Challenge a Subpoena Ad Testificandum?

A subpoena can be challenged. Individuals who believe the subpoena is unreasonable, overly burdensome, or irrelevant to the case can file a motion to quash (nullify) or modify it. Courts review such motions and decide based on the facts and the law’s specifics.

Are There Any Specific Rules About How A Subpoena Ad Testificandum Must Be Served?

Generally, a Subpoena Ad Testificandum must be personally delivered to the individual named in the document, ensuring that the recipient is adequately informed of the legal obligation. In many jurisdictions, the service must be done by someone 18 or older, not a party to the case.

Some areas also allow service by certified mail, return receipt requested. In addition to the subpoena itself, many jurisdictions require a witness fee or mileage reimbursement to be offered during service.

This ensures the witness’s rights are respected. Improper service may render the subpoena unenforceable.

Can The Subpoenaed Individual Request Compensation For Their Time And Expenses?

Yes, subpoenaed individuals, particularly in the context of a “subpoena ad testificandum”, which requires their appearance to testify, are often entitled to compensation for their time and certain expenses.

The rationale is to mitigate the inconvenience of being compelled to participate in a legal proceeding.

Typically, this compensation comes as a witness fee and mileage reimbursement for travel to and from the court or tribunal.

The exact amounts and the conditions under which they are offered can vary depending on jurisdictional rules and the nature of the proceeding.

However, it’s worth noting that these compensations are usually nominal and may not truly reflect the actual costs or lost earnings an individual might incur. If a subpoenaed individual believes the compensation is insufficient, they might discuss the matter with the issuing party or seek legal advice.

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