July 3, 2008
COMPELLING WITNESSES TO COME TO COURT
By: Susan Price, Principal Legislative Analyst
You asked how civil courts compel witnesses to testify and what expenses are reimbursed.
In civil actions, a party who intends to call a witness at trial serves him or her with a subpoena indicating the date, time, and court location where the testimony will be taken. The subpoena must be served by a proper officer or indifferent person at least 18 hours before the date and time of the court proceeding and is valid for 60 days. The person who serves the subpoena usually gives the witness the equivalent of one day's attendance and traveling fees along with the subpoena.
Trial witnesses who have been properly served remain under subpoena until the case is over or the court discharges them. When a trial is rescheduled, postponed, or continues for more than one day, witnesses must appear in court each time they are notified to do so. Unless they have a reasonable excuse, those who received advance attendance and travel fees who do not come to court on the specified date and time may be arrested, fined up to $25, and ordered to pay damages associated with their non-appearance.
Witnesses who believe that they have been subpoenaed for an improper reason, such as for purposes of annoyance or harassment, may file a motion asking the judge to quash the subpoena.
In Connecticut, non-expert witnesses are entitled to 50 cents for each day they attend the trial and travel reimbursements of 50.5 cents for each mile traveled to and from court (CGS § 52-250). The party that issued the subpoena is responsible for paying the fees.