Witnesses and documents can help you prove your case. The easiest way to get a witness to come to court is to ask them. If they are willing to come to court, you do not need a subpoena.
A subpoena is a court document that orders a person to appear in court and testify. You can also subpoena records.
How do I get a subpoena?
To have a subpoena issued, take these steps:
Is there a filing fee?
No. There is no fee for a subpoena.
How do I serve the subpoena?
You can serve the subpoena yourself or have someone else serve it for you. Although any person can serve a subpoena, it is best to have it served by someone eighteen (18) or older. (See Serving Court Papers.)
Serve one of the copies without the court seal to the witness at least 10 days before your court date.
The original subpoena with the court seal should be returned to the clerk at least five days before the court date along with a Proof of Service form. You keep the other copy for your records.
When do I get the documents?
The documents will be sent directly to the court. You will get to see the subpoenaed documents at the trial.
Do I have to pay witnesses?
Only if they request payment. You do not have to offer payment. If a witness asks for fees and they are not paid before the court hearing, the witness does not have to come to court.
The fee for a regular witness is $35.00 per day and 20¢ per mile to and from the court. Witness fees for police officers and certain public officials are higher. Check with the agency directly for the cost.
If the witness requests a fee, you can pay the fee yourself, or have the person who serves the subpoena pay them. At the hearing, you can ask the Judge to add the witness fees to your judgment.
Can a witness send a written statement instead of coming to court?
Some courts will accept a written statement instead of an appearance by a witness.
Contact the court to find out if written statements (declarations) are accepted. If they are, ask the witness to write down what they saw or what they know.
How do I subpoena records from a government agency?
If you are subpoenaing records from a government agency, different rules may apply. Contact the government agency directly to learn their procedures. You may be charged a fee.
How do I subpoena personal records from a third party?
There is a different procedure for obtaining records on a party to the case through another person or business. Please contact the Small Claims Advisor Service for details on how to subpoena these records.
Contact us for more information or speak with one of our counselors at (800) 593-8222. If you live outside of Southern California, call us at (213) 974-9759.
Updated June 3, 2008
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