How to Subpoena Witnesses for Your Trial

How to Subpoena Witnesses for Your Trial

In some cases, you may want to bring a witness or an important document to the court to prove your claim. You or your attorney can do so by issuing a subpoena. It could be sent to a person or an institution. A subpoena is a court command that compels a person to do what is requested. Rule 45 Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in a civil case and Rule 17 Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure in a criminal case explain the manner in which a subpoena is served. Each state has its own rule just like the federal rule.

What is a Subpoena?

A subpoena is a court order that compels a person to testify or produce documents. A party requesting a subpoena can send it to a person or entity. For instance, a request to issue medical records upon a hospital. If they disobey, they may be liable for contempt of court charges.
There are two ways to subpoena. Firstly, you can subpoena a witness to testify at a hearing, deposition or trial. Secondly, you can subpoena an individual or entity to submit documents. It includes inspection for documents, too. The documents could be physical or electronic. You should also mention the form in which you want the electronic documents in return.

Who may issue a subpoena?

According to the Federal Rules of Procedure, the subpoena must come from the court where the case is pending. The first thing you should do is request a court clerk to issue a subpoena form. The court clerk may issue a signed and blank subpoena. You or your attorney should fill it before sending it. Alternatively, your attorney who is licensed to practice law in the issuing court can draft, sign and issue a subpoena. Depending on the rules of civil or criminal procedure of the state, a party to the case can also sign it.

What are the contents of a subpoena?

A subpoena must include the name and address of the receiver, the name of the court, its sign and seal and the time and place where the witness needs to testify. It should also contain the purpose of your request. In the case of documents, you should describe in detail the list of documents that you are seeking. For federal cases, you should add an affidavit. It is to certify the correctness of the contents of the subpoena. Usually, you should also get it notarized by a notary public.

How do you serve a subpoena?
Image courtesy of Jirapong Manustrong on istock via Getty Images

How do you serve a subpoena?

You or your attorney cannot serve a subpoena to someone. But, a person who is at least 18 years of age and not a party to the case can serve. It could be delivered by certified mail, email, or hand-delivery at the last known address of the recipient. You should also show proof of service to the court. It could be in the form of a certified mail receipt or a statement from the person who delivered it.
In federal civil cases, if you intend to request documents or inspect a place. You should serve a notice with the subpoena to each party to the case before serving it to the intended party. Federal rules in civil and criminal cases also require you to pay one day’s travel expenses to the witness for coming to testify. But, if you are unable to pay this amount and the witness attendance is a necessary defense. You can write an application to the court to remove this fee.

The Takeaway:

Sometimes a person or a document could be an important defense to your case. You can request a person to become a witness or produce the document by issuing a subpoena. It is a court command that compels them to perform the requested task. You or your attorney can get the subpoena form from the court and send it to the party. But it involves some steps. Knowing these steps will help you to better prepare a subpoena request and comply with court rules regarding its issuance.

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