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Explanation of the Legal Term 'Motion to Quash'

Sonia Nair Aug 17, 2020
If you receive a summons or a subpoena from a court, you may file a motion to quash the same, before that court. This story provides a brief overview of this legal provision.
A motion to quash must be in writing, and should be filed within the stipulated time frame.

The word 'motion' has different meanings. When used in the legal context, it denotes an application made to a court for a ruling in favor of the applicant, who is involved in a case.
For example, a motion can be moved to dismiss the case, if the parties reach an amicable agreement. A motion can be filed by any of the opposing parties. The party who files the motion is called the movant or the moving party and the opposing side is called nonmovant or nonmoving party.
Motions can be filed for different purposes. A motion to quash is filed for declaring the subject of the motion invalid.

What Does a Motion to Quash Mean?

A motion to quash is a legal term that is used to denote an application made to a court to nullify its action. Such a motion can be filed to quash a ruling made by a lower court, when it can affect the outcome of the current case.
A motion to quash can be filed when the court has committed some mistake in its ruling, or if a court document has been served improperly. This provision is available in both civil and criminal cases, and the terms and conditions may vary with the state and federal statutes.
A motion to quash can be filed in civil and criminal cases, especially when the proceedings are defective or irregular. If the court sends a summons to a wrong person, he can resort to a motion to quash service of summons. Lack of jurisdiction is another ground for filing a motion to quash service of summons. In other words, he can file a request to declare the service of summons invalid.
A bench warrant is issued by a court when a person fails to comply with its order. Usually, this type of warrant is issued against defendants in criminal cases. If a bench warrant is issued against a person, he should approach an attorney, who can file a motion to quash the warrant.
A motion to quash can be filed in case of defective charges too. If charges are framed against a wrong person, the prosecutor may file a request to quash the charges.

Motion to Quash Subpoena

A subpoena is an order issued by a court asking the recipient to appear and testify, or produce documents before it, at a certain date and time. Failure to comply with the order amounts to contempt of court. Filing a motion to quash the subpoena is one of the ways to respond to that order.
Such a motion can be filed on various grounds, including the confidential nature of the information sought to be disclosed. Lack of reasonable time to comply is another common reason.
According to law, the recipient must be residing within a specific geographic limit, if he is ordered to appear before a particular court. If the recipient resides beyond that limit, he can move the court to quash the subpoena.
If the subpoena is issued to a wrong person, he can move the court to quash the same. The recipient may also approach a higher court, if there is some sort of violation of law in issuing the subpoena.
A Subpoena Duces Tecum is a type of subpoena that orders the recipient to produce the documents that are pertinent to the case. In that case, the subpoena must specify the documents required by the court and the recipient must be in control of the same. This type of subpoena can also be challenged with a motion to quash. However, there is a certain time limit to file the motion.

How to File a Motion to Quash

Whenever you receive a court document, like a subpoena or a bench warrant, consult an attorney at the earliest. You are supposed to comply with the document or respond to the same.
You may file a motion to quash the court order, on your own or through your attorney. In your application, you must cite the reasons for your request. A motion to quash must be filed within a specific time limit.
While preparing the application, give the name of the judicial body (before which you want to file the application) on the top. Below that, provide the names of the parties to the case and the case number. Provide a headline stating the name and purpose of the motion. For example, MOTION TO QUASH SUBPOENA.
Start your request, stating the relevant sections according to which, you are filing the motion. Mention the dates, including the date you received the subpoena. Put forth the facts in brief and your arguments; and state the grounds on which you want to get the subpoena quashed.
End the application requesting the court to quash the subpoena. Provide your name and address.
The motion must be signed by the applicant or his attorney. If you have hired an attorney, he will do the drafting and filing. If you want to do it on your own, draft the motion and file it in the same court that issued the summons or subpoena against you. Get the original and a copy of the document time-stamped.
Keep the copy with you and leave the original in the filing box, along with an affidavit and proof of service (notice regarding the motion to other parties of the case). Copies must be served to other parties to the case.
In short, a motion to quash can be filed before a court to declare an action invalid. Such actions may include bench warrants, deposition notices, service of summons or subpoenas. It is always better to file such motions through an attorney, who knows more about the nitty-gritty of legal procedures.