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Being ordered to go to court as a witness

What is a subpoena?

A subpoena is an official document which tells you that you must go to court to give evidence and/or to take certain documents to court.

Do I have to go to court and answer questions if I get a subpoena?

You may. Read what the subpoena says. The subpoena might say you have to go to court to give evidence or it might say you have to take documents to court.

At the time you get the subpoena you must also get given some money to cover the costs of travel or you may agree to just being given a ticket for travel. You do not have to pay for the travel, the person or organisation that has organised the subpoena must pay. The payment does not have to be for luxury travel. If there is public transport close to where you live and close to the court, then the payment only has to be enough to pay for public transport, not a taxi.

What do I do if I don’t get any money?

You need to contact the person or organisation that ordered you to give evidence or produce documents. If still unsuccessful, get legal advice.

What happens if I don't go to court and answer questions or take the documents to court?

  • If the subpoena says you must go to court and give evidence and you don't go, then the court may order a warrant to arrest you and bring you to the court.
  • If the subpoena says you must take documents to court and you don't take them or send them, then the court may order a warrant to arrest you and bring you to the court. If this happens the court will ask you for the documents.
  • Remember to read the subpoena carefully to see what you must do. The subpoena will say what can happen if you don't do what you are supposed to do.

If you get a subpoena and you are unsure what you have to do, talk to a lawyer for legal advice.

Do I need legal advice?

You may need legal advice if you

  • have been given a subpoena to give evidence or take certain documents to court and you are unsure what you have to do
  • have attempted to get money for travel from the person or organisation that ordered you to give evidence or produce documents, but they won't pay
  • were given a subpoena to give evidence at court or take/send documents to court but you didn't.

Get legal advice

Legal Aid Queensland may give legal advice about being ordered to go to court as a witness. You should bring your subpoena to show the lawyer when you get legal advice.

The following organisations may also be able to provide you with legal advice.

Community legal centres may give free preliminary legal advice and information on some criminal law matters. Most CLCs do not provide legal representation. Check with your closest CLC whether they can assist with your matter.

Queensland Law Society can refer you to a specialist private solicitor who can provide advice and representation.

Who else can help?

These organisations may also be able to help with your matter. They do not provide legal advice.

Queensland Courts give information on Supreme court, Court of Appeal, district court, magistrates court, Coroners court, Childrens court of Queensland, Land court.

Department of Justice and Attorney-General provide information about the court system, including a helpful guide to Going to court which includes information for witnesses.

Protect All Children Today (PACT) provide support and assistance to children who are required to give evidence within the criminal justice system as victims of crime or witnesses.

Victims Counselling and Support Service assists victims and witnesses to crimes with counselling and support, and information about the court process. They cannot provide court support.

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