How Much Does it Cost to Subpoena Someone?

September 6, 2023

Initiating the process of subpoena comes with inherent costs that you should be aware of to avoid unexpected financial burden.

A subpoena is a legal document that compels an individual to testify or produce documents before a court. An attorney or individual who is a party to a lawsuit can use this powerful legal tool to gather relevant information for their case or investigation. 

The verdict of your legal case may depend on the testimony or evidence of a subpoenaed witness. Failure to comply with the terms of a subpoena is considered contempt in court and may cause legal consequences such as arrest and possible compensation to the party who incurred damage due to non-compliance.

In this article, we’ll explore different types of subpoenas, factors affecting the cost of a subpoena, and how to minimize the cost.

Types of Subpoenas

Types of Subpoenas

There are two major types of a subpoena: subpoena ad testificandum and subpoena duces tecum.

Subpoena Ad Testificandum: This type of subpoena requires an individual to appear before the court as a witness and testify before a legal proceeding. Hence, the Latin word “ad testificandum” which translates to English as “to testify.”

Subpoena Duces Tecum: The Latin term “Duces Tecum” means “bring with you”. Subpoena duces tecum requires the witness subpoenaed to produce documents, records, or other pieces of evidence relevant to the legal proceedings. This type of subpoena must be properly served within the provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure.

Factors Influencing the Cost of Issuing a Subpoena

From jurisdiction and location to witness fees and documentation, several factors influence the cost of issuing a subpoena. Let’s explore some of the factors below:

Jurisdiction and Location

Jurisdiction and Location

In the United States, each of the two major jurisdictions – federal and state – has its own laws, regulations, procedural requirements, and administrative fees. The jurisdictions for laws and witness fee structure also differ across various states and these variations can significantly impact the cost of issuing and serving a subpoena.

Internationally served subpoenas may add extra costs due to compliance with international agreements, shipping, and other complexities.

Also, the geographic location where the subpoena is served can influence costs. For example, serving subpoenas in rural areas can incur higher costs than in urban areas due to longer distance and accessibility challenges.

Method of Service

Method of Service

There are different methods of delivering a subpoena to a recipient and each of these methods comes with unique costs.

Personal Delivery: This method involves physically serving the subpoena to the recipient. It requires you to hire a process server or a law enforcement agent to ensure compliance with legal procedures. Personal delivery is considered the most effective as the witness subpoenaed directly receives and acknowledges the order. However, it is relatively more costly than other methods, with an average cost of $50 – $150.

Certified mail: Here, the subpoena is served through the postal service and requests proof of receipt from the recipient. Costs include postage fees and the additional cost for the return receipts. To serve a subpoena via certified mail costs around $10.

Electronic Method: This method allows you to send a subpoena through digital means such as email. It’s the fastest and most cost-effective method to serve a subpoena, costing as low as $5. The document can be transmitted instantly, reaching the recipient within a few seconds regardless of the location. Costs include internet connection and access to delivery or messaging platforms.

3. Travel and Accommodation

Travel and Accommodation

Mileage fees: For subpoenas served across long distances, the witness shall be entitled to a mileage fee of up to twenty cents ($0.20) per mile from the party requesting the subpoena.

Accommodation fees: Where the recipient’s location requires the process server more than a day to deliver the subpoena, accommodation expenses might arise. The cost of accommodation may vary between $50 to $400 per night depending on the location and standard.

Incidental Expenses: This includes additional costs that may arise during the delivery of a subpoena. They may include parking fees, reimbursement for meals, toll fees, etc.

4. Research and Time

In some cases, issuing a subpoena requires significant research, particularly when it comes to identifying the current location of the potential recipient of the subpoena. This process might involve the service of skip tracing or private investigators especially when the witness subpoenaed is trying to avoid detection.

Private investigators have access to databases and tools that can help them fish out people’s location. The cost of hiring a private investigator, the length of time, and the resources required for the research and investigation all contribute to the cost of issuing a subpoena.  

From research to the delivery of a subpoena and everything in-between, to subpoena someone may take some time. However, you can hire a trustworthy and experienced subpoena service provider to expedite the whole process.

5. Witness Fees

Witness Fees

According to the California Department of Industrial Relations, a witness subpoenaed is entitled to a witness fee of $35 for each day’s court appearance and a mileage fee of twenty cents per mile to cover their travel expenses.

They’re also entitled to a per diem allowance of $3 per day to cover basic sustenance and other costs the individual might incur to participate in the legal proceedings. for each day of actual court attendance. The party requesting the subpoena pays the witness fees.

6. Preparation and Documentation

Several processes go into the preparation and documentation of the subpoena to ensure the procurement of required evidence or records, and compliance with regulations. You might incur several costs for copying, retrieving, and processing of documents.

Drafting the subpoena attracts costs as it requires the inclusion of accurate information in compliance with legal procedures and regulations and can involve the assistance of a legal professional.

Beyond drafting the subpoena, an attorney can offer other services like review and advice during the preparation and documentation of the subpoena, which may attract legal fees.

Potential Additional Costs

In a situation where an individual tries to quash a subpoena or refuses to respond appropriately, additional costs may apply:

Quashing a subpoena

The recipient of a subpoena reserves the right to challenge (quash) the validity of the subpoena if they have a legally valid ground. The legal processes involved in quashing a subpoena may attract several costs which may include include 

  • Legal costs for hiring an attorney to defend your interest in the court
  • The cost of attending additional court hearings
  • Potential appeal costs, should the court rule against the proponent of the subpoena.

Enforcing a Subpoena

If an individual refuses to comply with the terms of a subpoena, you may obtain a court order to enforce compliance and you may need to pay some legal fees to initiate this process.

Ways to Minimize Subpoena Costs

Effective Planning

Before issuing a subpoena, take time to thoroughly understand the information and evidence you need to present in the subpoena, including relevant documents, testimonies, and records that bolster your case. 

Also, ensure you’re clear and precise while drafting a subpoena. State  your requests clearly, including the type of information you’re seeking. Include the relevant names, dates, locations, and other necessary details to help the recipient understand your request.

Planning and drafting your subpoena clearly and effectively helps you eliminate possible ambiguity, ensuring that the recipient delivers requested information and documents accurately. It also reduces the chance of quashing or challenging the subpoena which may lead to additional costs.

Digital Subpoena Services

If allowed, use the electronic method of service to deliver your subpoena. Leveraging digital technologies like email to deliver the subpoena can help you save cost and time. 

Also, digital subpoena services help ease location limitations as you don’t need to travel to deliver the document. Provided there’s an internet connection and the recipient has access to digital technology, you can serve them no matter their location.

Consolidating Requests

If you need multiple witnesses and documents from a single location, consider serving all at once. For example, if the individuals you want to summon belong to the same family, company, or organization, you can serve them all simultaneously.

This will save you time and resources as you don’t need to prepare separate documentation and trips for each individual. However, you need to pay more attention to your communication here to ensure everyone is aware of your expectations to avoid confusion.

Seek Legal Advice

To ensure accuracy and prevent unnecessary costs, it’s highly recommended that you consult with a legal professional before issuing a subpoena.

A legal professional will help you draft a subpoena in compliance with the laws and regulations and can also review the subpoena for you, ensuring an error-free document that might incur potential additional costs.

Final Thoughts

Understanding the cost before issuing a subpoena helps you weigh the potential benefits against the potential consequences, helping you make informed decisions. Ignoring these costs may lead to unexpected financial burdens and resultant challenges.

Also, issuing a subpoena without compliance with relevant regulations can result in serious legal consequences. Hence you need the service of a legal professional to avoid costly errors.

On-demand legal services with arranging services from eFiling to organizing and preparing your subpoena for records and/or personal appearance and much more.

Proud Member

Proud member of the California Association of Legal Support Professionals (CALSPro), National Association of Professional Process Servers (NAPPS) and Serve-Now Network of Process Servers

National Association of Professional Process Servers   California Association of Legal Support Pros   Local Process Servers


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