Witnesses are people who come to court to tell what they've seen or heard. Whether you're the plaintiff or the defendant, you may bring witnesses to support your story. These people should either be witnesses who saw what happened or experts on the subject matter of the claim involved.
An expert witness is someone who because of their education, training, skill or experience has more knowledge about a particular subject than the average person.
The Best Witnesses
Bring witnesses only if you know that they'll support you. Witnesses who are not friends or relatives may be more effective in proving your case. If your only witnesses are friends or family, you should still bring them but ask them to present themselves in a professional manner, be objective and not be emotional.
Talk to Witnesses Before Hearing
Always talk your witnesses before the hearing. Your witnesses may not see or interpret the facts in the same way that you do, or they may have forgotten some of the important details.
Subpoena a Witness
You'll need a subpoena if an essential witness won't agree to come to court to support you. A subpoena is a court order that says that your witness has to come to court. It can also say that someone has to bring certain papers to court at your hearing.
You'll need to subpoena a witness if:
- Your witness won't come to court
- Someone won't give you the documents you need to prove your case
Filling Out the Subpoena
You can get your subpoena, which is form SC-107, from the small claims clerk or download it from California Courts Self-Help Center Small Claims Forms.
You'll need to know the name of the witness that you want to come to court or exactly what papers you want the person to bring to your hearing.
If you're subpoenaing a person to come to court, only fill out page one of form SC-107. If you are requesting documents, complete pages one and two.
Take Subpoena to Clerk
After you've filled out your subpoena, take it to the clerk. The clerk will look at the subpoena and may ask you some questions. After the clerk signs and stamps the subpoena, you should make copies of it.
Serving a Copy of the Subpoena
After you make copies, serve a copy of the subpoena to the person, business or public entity you are subpoenaing. Anyone, even you, can serve your subpoena, which means giving a copy of it to the defendant. Keep the original subpoena, which is the one signed and stamped by the clerk.
Return Original Subpoena to Clerk
After the subpoena is served, fill out page three of the original subpoena. Have the person who served the subpoena sign at the bottom of page three. After you complete page three of the original subpoena and have it signed, return the subpoena to the clerk before your hearing.
Witnesses can ask for $35 a day and 20 cents a mile. Be prepared to pay the witness fees. If the witness asks for the money before your court date and you don't pay it, the witness doesn't have to show up at your hearing.
You don't have to pay anything if your witness doesn't ask for money. But you should have the money with you at court, in case the witness asks for the fees. Form SC-107 lets the witness know that they have a right to these fees, so the witness may ask for the money in front of the judge.
If Witness Can't Attend Trial
If any witness can't attend the hearing, you can ask the witness to write and sign a statement that you can give to the court. The statement, also called a declaration, should include everything that the witness would like to tell the judge about your claim or defense.
Questions for Your Attorney
- Do I need to have witnesses?
- Can a witness testify by telephone?
- What can I do if one of my witnesses changed their story and ended up telling lies during my hearing?