Subpoenaing A Witness In Washington State

Civil or criminal lawsuits involving witness testimony frequently require subpoenas. A subpoena is a legal document commanding a person or business to provide testimony at various court proceedings (e.g. trial or deposition) or present relevant documents to a party to a lawsuit.  When subpoenaing a witness in Washington state, there are specific steps the lawyer must take to ensure compliance with state statutes and court rules.

Serving and Compelling Appearance

Washington statutes require an individual over 18 to serve the subpoena upon the witness by either reading the subpoena to the witness or delivering it to their usual place of abode.  RCW 12.16.020.  Individuals properly served a subpoena cannot ignore it or refuse to comply without just cause.  Pursuant to RCW 12.16.030, the parties serving the subpoena may seek judicial assistance in compelling a subpoenaed person into compliance.  Should the subpoenaed individual continually refuse to comply, they risk being held in contempt of court or being held liable for damages associated with their failure to comply.  RCW 5.56.061. RCW 5.56.060.


Subpoenaed individuals required to provide testimony at trial, a deposition, or any other court proceeding have the right to certain reimbursements for their compliance with the subpoena.  Per RCW 5.56.010, Washington state law allows individuals duly subpoenaed to be reimbursed for “one day’s attendance as a witness and for traveling to and returning from the place where he or she is required to attend, together with any allowance for meals and lodging”.  Should a witness be compelled to appear outside of the county they reside, they can apply ex parte to the court (i.e. proposing a motion without waiting for a response from the opposing side) who may grant additional reimbursement for lodging, meals and mileage if necessary. Id.

Seek Counsel when Subpoenaed

If you or someone you know receives a subpoena, they should seek legal counsel—facing such circumstances alone often ends poorly.  At Beresford Booth, we regularly guide clients through the subpoena process.  We would be pleased to work through the issues you face and resolve them practically and efficiently.

BERESFORD BOOTH PLLC has made this content available to the general public for informational purposes only. The information on this site is not intended to convey legal opinions or legal advice.