What Is the Difference Between a Summons and a Subpoena?

Both a summons and a subpoena are used to give notice about court proceedings. However, they’re not the same thing. They are served to different people, and they carry different levels of obligation. Here are a few of the key differences between a summons and a subpoena:


A summons is an official notification of a lawsuit, given to the person who is being sued. Legally, a summons informs someone that they are being sued, so they know that they should come to court and fight the lawsuit. In order for a case to be properly filed and admitted in court, the defendant must be served with a lawsuit according to the rules in their state.


A subpoena is a document that requires someone to appear in court or attend a deposition. Sometimes, witnesses are not willing to appear in court or participate in a deposition, so a subpoena can be used to compel them to appear. A subpoena can also compel someone to provide evidence or documents. If you receive a subpoena, you must comply with the request or you can be held in contempt of court.

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