subpoena (səpēˈnə) [key] [Lat., = under penalty], in law, an order to a witness to appear before a court. A subpoena ad testificandum [Lat., = to testify under penalty], the technical term denoting an ordinary subpoena, is a command for an individual to appear at a particular time and place to testify on a specific matter. A subpoena duces tecum [Lat., = bring with you under penalty] requires a witness to produce at trial books, personal papers, or other material relevant to a judicial proceeding. Failure to obey a subpoena constitutes contempt of court, though subpoenas can be challenged.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.