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If you are unable to get a witness to appear voluntarily, or you need records produced in court that are not in your possession, you can ask the court to issue a subpoena. A subpoena is a legal document that commands the person named in it to appear in court to testify or to produce records. For example, police and fire department, Buildings Department, hospital, telephone or Con Edison records can be subpoenaed. An expert witness cannot be compelled to testify by subpoena.

If you would like to subpoena a witness or documents, you must come to the Clerk’s office and fill out the subpoena forms. Click on Locations to find out where to go in your county. You can also get help with a subpoena from the Help Center or from the court attorneys in the Part where your case is assigned. After you have filled out the forms, the clerk will present the subpoena to the judge for signature. You must then arrange for the service of the subpoena and the payment of a witness fee and, where appropriate, travel expenses for the person subpoenaed. You are responsible for paying these fees unless the judge who signs the subpoena specifically waives payment. Any person, including a friend or relative, who is 18 years of age or older and who is not a party to the case can serve the subpoena. A party cannot serve a subpoena themselves unless the judge who signs the subpoena orders that it can be served by the party. A copy of the subpoena must also be served on the party on the other side of the case, or on that party’s attorney if there is one. For detailed information on how to serve a subpoena, click on Subpoena Instructions.

A subpoena can be served any time before the hearing. However, a witness should be given a “reasonable” amount of time before he or she must appear. Generally, it is considered reasonable to serve the subpoena at least 5 days before the hearing date. This will allow the person subpoenaed to prepare the items you request or appear at the hearing.