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Subpoena to testify and bring written evidence

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed November 2021

Why would I use a subpoena to make someone testify and bring written evidence to court?

You can subpoena someone if you need them to help your case. A subpoena can make them testify and bring written evidence to the hearing. The person you subpoena is “a witness.” Examples of written evidence you can subpoena are bank statements, photos, phone records, payroll records, and medical records.

Sometimes your witness is willing to attend your hearing but they need you to subpoena them so they can leave work.

It would be someone you think can give the court evidence that can help your case.

Make sure their testimony or written evidence will help your case before you subpoena anyone.

How do I fill out a subpoena to make someone testify and bring written evidence to court?

  1. Get form Subpoena to Testify and Bring Written Evidence to Court

  2. Write on the form:

  • The name of the person you need to come to court.
  • The address where a sheriff or deputy constable can find and serve them with the subpoena.
  • The name and address of the court.
  • The date and time of your hearing
  • The docket number of your case.
  • The specific records or documents you need them to bring with them when they come to the hearing.


Be as specific as you can when you describe the evidence you need so they know exactly what to bring.

  1. Get the subpoena notarized. Take your filled out subpoena to a notary public. Ask them to notarize it. See What if I need to have something notarized?
  2. Make 2 copies of the subpoena.

How do I serve a Subpoena to Testify and Bring Written Evidence?

You need someone who is not related to your case to serve a subpoena. They can be a

  • deputy sheriff
  • a constable or
  • another person unrelated to the case. This person can be a friend. They must be:
    • over 18 years old, and
    • not a witness for your case, and
    • not related to the person you are serving.

Use a deputy sheriff or constable to be sure the subpoena is served properly. But it will cost money. The court may pay the costs for service if the court approves your Affidavit of Indigency.

What does it cost to serve a subpoena?

  • a service fee to the deputy sheriff or constable, and
  • a witness fee to the person you subpoena. You can pay the witness fee by cash, check, or money order.

The sheriff or constable's cost depends on the distance the sheriff or constable has to travel or how many times they have to return to a location to complete service.

The witness fee is:

  • $6 for each day the witness must appear in court, and
  • their travel expenses.

You must give the witness one day's fee and travel expenses before they come to court.

Your witness travel expenses are calculated using mileage. You can estimate their mileage.

  • You pay $0.10 / mile, for the round trip distance between the witness' home and the courthouse.
  • If the witness works in the city or town where the court is located, then the $0.10 /mile is the round trip distance between the witness’ work and the court.

If you cannot afford the costs of the subpoena, you can ask the state to pay the fees. See What if I cannot afford the cost of going to court?

How does my friend serve a subpoena for me ?

You friend must be:

  • 18 or over,
  • not a witness in your case, and
  • unrelated to the person you are subpoenaing.

Give your friend:

  • the original and 2 copies of the subpoena, and
  • the witness fee.

Your friend must follow these steps to make sure they serve the subpoena correctly.

  1. Take the copies of the subpoena to the address on the subpoena form.
  2. Give the subpoenaed person:
    • a copy of the notarized subpoena and
    • the witness fee.
  3. Fill out and sign the “Return of Service” section of the subpoena. When they sign ”Return of Service” they swear that they gave the subpoena to the person they served.
    • If your friend serves someone at work, the manager or boss may say the person you are subpoenaing is not available. If that happens, leave the subpoena and witness fee with the manager. Put the manager’s name and add “as agent” of the subpoenaed person on the Return of Service.
  4. Give you back the original subpoena with the Return of Service they signed.

When do I have to serve a Subpoena to Testify and Bring Documents?

The court rules do not say that you have to give a witness a set amount of time between the day you serve them and the day of the hearing. But give them enough time to get documents together and to get to the hearing on time.

If you can, talk to your witness before your hearing. Tell them the questions you will ask them at the hearing so you know if their answers will help your case.

What can the person you subpoena do if they do not want to testify in court or provide evidence?

They can file a motion if your subpoena is “unreasonable or oppressive.”

They can also file a motion to ask the court to order you to pay their cost of producing the written evidence.

What happens if someone ignores a subpoena?

If the person you subpoena does not show up for the hearing and did not file a motion to cancel or modify the subpoena , the judge can order them to appear.

Before the judge makes an order, they may ask for proof that the subpoena was served properly. The proof is the Return of Service.

The judge may hold the person in “contempt of court.” The judge can force them to come to court  or go to jail.

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