Failure to respond to a subpoena is punishable as contempt by either the court or agency issuing the subpoena. Punishment may include monetary sanctions (even imprisonment although extremely unlikely). Generally, a hearing will be held where the party charged with noncompliance has an opportunity to explain its side of the story, and the court or agency has broad discretion to determine an appropriate punishment given the circumstances presented. In most cases in a contempt proceeding, the court determines the appropriateness of withholding any documents under a claim of privilege. In such cases, the outcome is more likely to be an order to produce, coupled with an award of attorneys’ fees to the party that had to initiate the contempt proceedings.
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