September 30, 2004

Legal George: Out of State Subpoenas If I receive a subpoena to appear as witness in a felony trial out of state, am I required to attend? [More Inside]

Several months ago, I was the victim of an eBay internet fraud. This particular seller had also defrauded many others, and charges were filed. Long story short, I recently received a subpoena from the State of Louisiana to appear as a witness in the felony trial. As I cannot afford to travel to Louisiana, I'm in a bit of a quandry. After some cursory research, it's my understanding that I cannot be required to attend. Is this correct? Due to my hectic work schedule, I've been unable to get a hold of the sheriff's office that issued the subpoena to find out what's going on.

  • You bought a p-p-p-powerbook, didn't you? 'Fess up.
  • Not to be rude or anything, but this sounds like something you should get legal advice on.
  • I can't imagine that they could force you to leave the state at your own expense without some sort of hardship loophole. They have one for jury duty, after all. But yeah, you may need to talk to a lawyer.
  • Disclaimer: laws differ from state to state, criminal cases differ from civil cases, IANAL, talk to an attorney, etc. If your participation is required, ask if it's possible for them to take your deposition and read it into the trial record so you won't have to travel to Louisiana.
  • ask on the Craigslist Legal Forum , but you might have to wade through some , ahhh... uninformed responses.
  • Thanks for the link gyusan. BTW: The subpoena was mailed, not hand served. Not even sent certified; it was just in my mailbox when I got home...
  • Bit hard to claim you never got it now, though. You'd to best to ask an lawyer. You may be able to submit your testimony through an affidavit or somesuch. Make sure any lawyer you do consult is either familiar with Lousiana law or consults a lawyer who is.
  • I also am not a lawyer. However, I do know that Louisiana's legal system is rather different from the other 49 states, due to its origin as a French colony. Make absolutely sure that the lawyer you consult is familiar with the specifics of Louisiana law, because it might not fall under the general rules of thumb that apply to most other states.
  • I hope you work out a deposition. Congrats for having the opportunity to represent yourself... not too many eBay victims get that.
  • Regular mail is not any recognized form of service that I am aware of. There is simply no way to know definitively that you received the subpoena. I would not worry about appearing at all if I were you. Understand, however, that the specific charges as they relate to you as a victim will probably be very difficult for the government to prove without your presence. Those charges may be dismissed. If they are dismissed, then you will not receive any restitution that may have otherwise been ordered to be paid to you. If you have some considerable money at stake in the thing, then you might want to consider going.
  • Financially, it's not a big deal; after my eBay claim, I only ended up about $25 bucks in the hole. This guy defrauded a lot of people on eBay and, quite frankly, I'm actually surprised it's going to trial with so much evidence against him. I know I sent copies of all of my auction documentation, emails from him, tracking number, etc., and if his other eBay victims did the same thing he's going to need one hell of a defense attorney. The thing is, the entire transaction took place online; I never spoke with the guy in person, and they have all of the emails and auction info, so I'm not sure how my presence in court is actually going to help prosecute the case. I really wasn't expecting to have to appear at a trial, so the thing took me by surprise; but bernockle's right - although LA criminal court procedure states first class mail is acceptable service process, it would seem that they should at least send a certified letter. Or something.
  • I think all they need is an affidavit of service that states such-and-such documents were sent by this person to this other person at this address via this method. As long as it's signed and notarized it should be alright. I think.
  • Regular mail is not any recognized form of service that I am aware of. In Tennessee and most states, regular mail is a legitimate form of service. You are legally obligated to respond. But yeah, what shinything and others said... hopefully you can just give a deposition. For legal advice, your state's Bar Association may be a helpful resource. Check out the American Bar Association or google for your state plus "bar association." They may have a legal advice hotline or a list of affordable law clinics. Good luck!
  • I second the note that Louisiana is a whole other country, when it comes to the legal system.