A subpoena is a court order for a person to appear as a witness in a court matter. Nevada law has strict protocols for delivering a subpoena to a person. If these rules are not followed, the person named in the subpoena does not have to comply with it.
Service of subpoenas in civil cases (NRS 174.345)
A subpoena must be served directly to the person named in the subpoena by either:
- a peace officer, or
- any other person who is at least 18 and is not a party to the case
If the subpoena is for a misdemeanor trial, the subpoena may instead be served by mail if:
- the server uses registered mail,
- the server uses return receipt requested,
- the server files the certificate of mailing with the court within two (2) days after the mailing,
- the subpoena is in a sealed postpaid envelope,
- the subpoena is addressed to the person's last known address, and
- the subpoena is sent at least 10 days before the trial
Service of subpoenas in criminal cases (NRS 174.315)
Defense attorneys may issue subpoenas to people ordering that that they appear as witnesses during a trial or Nevada preliminary hearing. These witnesses can accept subpoenas either through:
- being formally served, or
- giving a written or oral promise to appear
For a witness's oral promise to be valid, the person accepting the oral promise must:
- identify him/herself to the witness by name and employment;
- make a written notation of the date of the oral promise and the identity of the witness; and
- execute a "certificate of service" containing the information in 1) and 2) above
Witnesses can also accept a subpoena by emailing a promise to appear at court to the relevant police agency.
Note that if the subpoena is for the witness to appear at a preliminary hearing, the subpoena must be properly calendared with the court first.
Deposition Subpoenas (NRS 174.375)
Nevada residents who are subpoenaed to appear at a deposition in Nevada are required to attend only if the deposition is either:
- where the person resides,
- where the person works, or
- where the person transacts business in person
Meanwhile, non-Nevada residents who are subpoenaed to appear at a deposition in Nevada are required to attend only if the deposition is either:
- in the county where the nonresident was served the subpoena, or
- within 40 miles from the place of service (or other location as decided by the court)
Subpoenas of prisoners (NRS 174.325)
In order to subpoena a person in a Nevada prison or jail, the party requesting the subpoena has to file a motion in court. This motion must include an affidavit that explains why the inmate's testimony is necessary.
The judge may then sign off on the order, and the local sheriff would serve the subpoena and bring the inmate to court on the required day(s). Depending on the case, the state or the defendant will pay for the expense of bringing in a subpoenaed prisoner.
Subpoena of objects (NRS 174.335)
Subpoenas can also order the person being served to bring various objects to court, such as:
- other objects described in the subpoena
These subpoenas should designate which objects to bring as well as the date, time, and location of the court appearance to bring them to.
Defying a Subpoena (NRS 174.385)
People who get subpoenaed will be held in contempt of court in Nevada if they do not comply with the orders of the subpoena. Depending on the case, the person can face jail, a fine, or both.
NRS 174.305 Subpoena for attendance of witnesses; form; issuance. Except as provided in NRS 172.195 and 174.315:
1. A subpoena must be issued by the clerk under the seal of the court. It must state the name of the court and the title, if any, of the proceeding, and must command each person to whom it is directed to attend and give testimony at the time and place specified therein. The clerk shall issue a subpoena, signed and sealed but otherwise in blank, to a party requesting it, who shall fill in the blanks before it is served.
2. A subpoena must be issued by a justice of the peace in a proceeding before the justice of the peace under the seal of the court.
NRS 174.315 Issuance of subpoena by prosecuting attorney or attorney for defendant; promise to appear; informing witness of general nature of grand jury's inquiry; calendaring of certain subpoenas.
1. A prosecuting attorney may issue subpoenas subscribed by the prosecuting attorney for witnesses within the State, in support of the prosecution or whom a grand jury may direct to appear before it, upon any investigation pending before the grand jury.
2. A prosecuting attorney or an attorney for a defendant may issue subpoenas subscribed by the issuer for:
(a) Witnesses within the State to appear before the court at which a preliminary hearing is to be held or an indictment, information or criminal complaint is to be tried.
(b) Witnesses already subpoenaed who are required to reappear in any Justice Court at any time the court is to reconvene in the same case within 60 days, and the time may be extended beyond 60 days upon good cause being shown for its extension.
3. Witnesses, whether within or outside of the State, may accept delivery of a subpoena in lieu of service, by a written or oral promise to appear given by the witness. Any person who accepts an oral promise to appear shall:
(a) Identify himself or herself to the witness by name and occupation;
(b) Make a written notation of the date when the oral promise to appear was given and the information given by the person making the oral promise to appear identifying the person as the witness subpoenaed; and
(c) Execute a certificate of service containing the information set forth in paragraphs (a) and (b).
4. A peace officer may accept delivery of a subpoena in lieu of service, via electronic means, by providing a written promise to appear that is transmitted electronically by any appropriate means, including, without limitation, by electronic mail transmitted through the official electronic mail system of the law enforcement agency which employs the peace officer.
5. A prosecuting attorney shall orally inform any witness subpoenaed as provided in subsection 1 of the general nature of the grand jury's inquiry before the witness testifies. Such a statement must be included in the transcript of the proceedings.
6. Any subpoena issued by an attorney for a defendant for a witness to appear before the court at which a preliminary hearing is to be held must be calendared by filing a motion that includes a notice of hearing setting the matter for hearing not less than 2 full judicial days after the date on which the motion is filed. A prosecuting attorney may oppose the motion orally in open court. A subpoena that is properly calendared pursuant to this subsection may be served on the witness unless the court quashes the subpoena.
NRS 174.325 Production of prisoner as witness.
1. When it is necessary to have a person imprisoned in the state prison brought before any district court, or a person imprisoned in the county jail brought before a district court sitting in another county, an order for that purpose may be made by the district court or district judge, at chambers, and executed by the sheriff of the county when it is made. The order can only be made upon motion of a party upon affidavit showing the nature of the action or proceeding, the testimony expected from the witness, and its materiality.
2. When a person required as a witness before a district court is imprisoned, the judge thereof may order the sheriff to bring the prisoner before the court at the expense of the State or, in the judge's discretion, at the expense of the defendant.
NRS 174.335 Subpoena for production of documentary evidence and of objects.
1. Except as otherwise provided in NRS 172.139, a subpoena may also command the person to whom it is directed to produce the books, papers, documents or other objects designated therein.
2. The court on motion made promptly may quash or modify the subpoena if compliance would be unreasonable or oppressive.
3. The court may direct that books, papers, documents or objects designated in the subpoena be produced before the court at a time before the trial or before the time when they are to be offered in evidence and may, upon their production, permit the books, papers, documents or objects or portions thereof to be inspected by the parties and their attorneys.
NRS 174.345 Service of subpoena.
1. Except as otherwise provided in NRS 174.315 and subsection 2, a subpoena may be served by a peace officer or by any other person who is not a party and who is not less than 18 years of age. Except as otherwise provided in NRS 289.027, service of a subpoena must be made by delivering a copy thereof to the person named.
2. Except as otherwise provided in NRS 174.315, a subpoena to attend a misdemeanor trial may be served by mailing the subpoena to the person to be served by registered or certified mail, return receipt requested from that person, in a sealed postpaid envelope, addressed to the person's last known address, not less than 10 days before the trial which the subpoena commands the person to attend.
3. If a subpoena is served by mail, a certificate of the mailing must be filed with the court within 2 days after the subpoena is mailed.
NRS 174.365 Place of service. A subpoena requiring the attendance of a witness at a hearing or trial may be served at any place within the State of Nevada.
NRS 174.375 Subpoena for taking depositions; place of examination.
1. An order to take a deposition authorizes the issuance by the clerk of the court for the county in which the deposition is to be taken of subpoenas for the persons named or described therein.
2. A resident of this state may be required to attend an examination only in the county wherein the resident resides or is employed or transacts business in person. A nonresident of this state may be required to attend only in the county where the nonresident is served with a subpoena or within 40 miles from the place of service or at such other place as is fixed by the court.
NRS 174.385 Contempt. Failure by any person without an adequate excuse to obey a subpoena of a court, a prosecuting attorney or an attorney for a defendant served upon the person or, in the case of a subpoena issued by a prosecuting attorney or an attorney for a defendant, delivered to the person and accepted, shall be deemed a contempt of the court from which the subpoena issued or, in the case of a subpoena issued by a prosecuting attorney or an attorney for a defendant, of the court in which a preliminary hearing is to be held, an investigation is pending or an indictment, information or complaint is to be tried.