Warrants & Subpoenas: What They Mean

lady justice with scales in front of a law book talking about a subpoena and a warrant with gavel

You may have attended a court case, have been involved in a court case or maybe a fan of police shows. In the process of the hearing, you heard terms like subpoena and warrant. These two terms are similar because they are issued by a court and the Lawyer Service of Central Texas can help you determine what kind of legal advice to give in case of such a situation. However, they both present different meanings.

What Do ‘Subpoena’ and ‘Warrant’ Mean?

A subpoena is ordered by a court whereby a material witness or an eyewitness is expected to show up in a court or an attorney’s office at a specific time and date. These witnesses then testify and offer sworn testimonies about what they know, heard, or saw. On the other hand, a warrant is a court order that permits law enforcers to seize and search the property of individuals suspected to be criminals. In most states, a warrant protects accused persons.

Application of Subpoena and Warrant


A subpoena is applicable in criminal and civil cases. For civil cases, the focus is put on gathering information at the discovery phase of a case and an attorney can issue it. Usually, a judge issues a subpoena in a civil case to persons who are not parties of the case. Whereas, criminal cases demand the issuance of pre-trial information and the appearance of a witness during a trial. It should be hand delivered by a process server, sheriff, or anyone over 18 years.


A warrant is issued by a judge only if the request meets the probable cause standard. The probable cause of necessitates evidence and not any type of suspicion. Law enforcers are required to deliver personally a seizure or a search warrant as they execute it. If an arrest is to be done, an arrest warrant should be issued before or after the arrest.

When to Contact a Lawyer

After receiving a criminal subpoena or a warrant, consider talking to a lawyer, before making any move and before turning yourself in. Having a lawyer will put you in a better situation in handling the situation. In most cases, a person is tempted to mischaracterize a situation hence becomes vulnerable to criminal charges. Vulnerability makes a situation rebuttable to testimonies given below the oath.

You should write all the details you know regarding a situation and include how you received the subpoena, circumstances that led to you being issued with the documents, and all relevant details of your interactions with the opposite party. You will be allowed to contact a lawyer when you are arrested and charged at the police station. If not yet arrested, it is suggested to talk to an attorney before turning yourself in.

Functions of a Lawyer

  • A lawyer will help you understand the details of the subpoena and warrant.
  • He or she will help you know the way forward after being arrested and will at times accompany you to the police station.
  • The lawyer will let you know what happens to you after an arrest and plan for a possible release.

Effects of Subpoena and Warrant to Your Records

Both a subpoena and a warrant do not have much effect on your future records if you are not remanded. If you consult with a criminal lawyer, you may ask whether or not to worry about any personal records that may be affected by either the subpoena or warrant. If so, a certificate of good conduct is may be necessary.

Get Started

Remember, you have the right to seek legal counsel at any point in a legal situation. It can be very intimidating when you are served a warrant or subpoena. Be prepared to contact a lawyer who will handle your case and provide you with legal advice regarding the nature of your warrant and subpoena. Contact the Lawyer Referral Service of Central Texas (LRS) in the Austin, TX area for help finding a criminal attorney or to answer your questions. We are here to help!

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