How the house help (occasionally) gets people in jail

Atty. Rami Hourani

A common refrain in conversations with lawyers is “the helper didn’t give me the subpoena from the fiscal’s office.” This conversation can happen in the lawyers office and occasionally it happens at the border of a holding cell.

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Lawyer’s rely on things called reglementary periods. They control our lives. Once you’ve given your case over to a lawyer though they largely fade from your mind as they become the job of the lawyer. However, there is one reglementary period that is not the lawyer’s responsibility. Omitting a lot of nuance, the one you should be worried about is the the reglementary period that runs when an action is first made against you. This typically comes in a complaint being personally served on you or a subpoena from the prosecutor’s office via registered mail. (The prosecutor is the government functionary who decides whether to file criminal cases.)

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You typically have a period of between 15-30 calendar days to find a lawyer and have him respond. It is in your best interest to find one as soon as possible because your lawyer will use the remaining time to respond.

In some unfortunate cases though, these important documents are received by the househelp or other person in the household who are ignorant of the significance of these papers. They get thrown in with the credit card statements and other junk mail.

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When you do not respond to these legal processes through with a lawyer you prejudice any case you might have had. In extreme cases, a warrant of arrest might issue and you could only find out about it when a policeman comes to arrest you. So please have a conversation with your house help about the mail!

Atty. Hourani practices law in Cebu City, PhilippinesIf you would like to set an appointment with him, you may reach him here.

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