In small claims cases, it is possible and even advisable to subpoena a witness in many states. Even if the witness agrees to testify at your hearing, an official subpoena may allow a postponement if the witness does not show up to court for any reason. A subpoena might also be the only way to get a representative from a big business to show up on your behalf.
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Things you need
- Request for subpoena form
Find the legal name and current address of the witness you wish to subpoena. If the name of the business or person is wrong, the subpoena may not be valid. In order for the person to be served, you must provide the court with the most current address you know of. If a witness cannot be served, he or she is not legally bound to appear in court.
Fill out a Request for Witness Subpoena or similar form and file it with your county clerk's office or at the small claims court. You will need to fill out the name of the person you want to testify, the date and time of the hearing, the location of the hearing and what items the witness should bring with them.
File the subpoena form with the court. You will also need to bring a copy of your claim and notice of hearing. Depending on your state, you may have the subpoena form signed immediately, while in others you have to wait for it to be mailed to you.
Have the witness served with the signed subpoena. Most states require that you go through the court to have the subpoena issued to the witness and will charge a nominal fee. A few states allow you to choose your own method for serving the witness, from mailing the subpoena to personally handing a witness the notice to appear. When you file the form, ask the clerk how the subpoena can be issued and served.
Visit Nolo for more information on issuing a subpoena for a witness in a small claims suit (see Resources below).
Subpoena a Witness for Your Small Claims Suit
Tips and warnings
- Be sure to bring copies of your subpoena and proof of service to court with you. If a witness does not obey the subpoena, he or she may be held in contempt of court.
- Let the witness know you will be issuing a subpoena so that he or she is not caught off guard. Being served with a notice to appear may make some people angry.