Small Claims Court

Sheriff's Office
Adrian H. Anderson, Sheriff



How Do I Start a Small Claims Case?

You, or someone on your behalf, must visit the Small Claims Court to file a statement of your claim.

You should be prepared to give a brief statement of the facts that form the basis of your claim. Check any documents relating to your case for the relevant dates and names. If you are suing on a contract or for property damage, you may claim interest as well as damages. You must sue in a court having a Small Claims Part in an area where the defendant lives, works, or has a place of business.

You will be required to pay a filing fee of approximately $5.00, which includes the cost of mailing a notice of the claim to the defendant.

When the claim is filed, the clerk will tell you when the case will be tried. The clerk will then send the notice of claim to the defendant by both certified and regular mail. The notice of claim tells the defendant when the case will be tried and gives a brief statement of your claim and the amount of money you are seeking. If the copy of the claim sent by regular mail is not returned as undeliverable within 21 days, the defendant is presumed to have received the notice, even if the claim sent by certified mail has not been delivered.

If the notice is not delivered by the post office, the court will set a new trial date and tell you how to arrange for personal service of the notice of claim on the defendant. Personal service may be made by any person (including a friend of relative) who is 18 years of age or older. (Exception- you or any other party associated with the claim may not serve the paperwork.)

If service of the notice cannot be made upon the defendant within the four months from the date of its inception, the action will be dismissed without prejudice. You may pursue the action at a later time.

A Small Claims case will not proceed to trial until the defendant has been served with a notice of claim.

What if I Win?

If a claimant (plaintiff) wins, the court will enter a judgment for a sum of money. The court may also require the plaintiff to take certain action. For example, the plaintiff may have to return damaged merchandise to the defendant before entering a judgment.

How Can I Locate the Defendant's Assets?

If a Small Claims judgment has been entered in your favor, you may obtain an information subpoena or subpoena from the Small Claims clerk upon a payment of $2.00 fee.  If you request, the clerk can assist you in the preparation and use of the information subpoena forms.  (Stationery stores such as Office Max and Staples carry these forms.)  An information subpoena is a legal document that may help you to discover the location of assets of the judgment debtor (defendant).  It is a legal direction to a person or institution to answer certain questions about where the assets of the defendant are located.  The information subpoena may be served upon the defendant or upon any person or corporation that you believe has knowledge of the defendant’s assets - the Telephone Company, Landlord, or Bank.   Separate forms are used for service on the defendant and service on any other person or corporation.

The person or corporation served with an information subpoena must answer the questions served with the subpoena within seven days of receipt. 

The information subpoena, accompanied by two copies of written questions, and a prepaid return address envelope, may be served by ordinary or certified mail, return receipt requested.

How Can I Collect My Judgment?

Winning a judgment does not guarantee you will collect.

The court provides some help in the collection of judgments. For example, prior to rendering the judgment, the court can order the defendant to disclose his or her assets and restrain the defendant from disposing of them. However, you must take the necessary steps to obtain payment of your judgment.

After winning a judgment in your favor, you should try to negotiate a payment from the losing party (defendant) in order to collect on your judgment. If the defendant does not pay you directly, you may need the services of a civil law enforcement officer, namely, the Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office, Civil Division.

When you cannot obtain payment directly from the defendant you  must first file at the County Clerk’s office, 22 Market Street, Poughkeepsie NY, 12601. You must complete this step before consulting with the Civil Division. As with all money judgments, you must file the transcript of judgment with the County Clerk’s office. For information concerning your transcript of judgment please call the County Clerk’s office at (845) 486-2125.

You must provide the Civil Division with the information needed to locate assets (money or property) owned by the defendant. Our office does not research or investigate any information concerning the defendant. You have to obtain all the necessary information before the Sheriff’s office will perform any efforts to seize the assets to satisfy your judgment. The Civil law enforcement officer will request mileage and other fees before he or she seizes any assets. In many circumstances, the fees paid in advance will be added to the original judgment amount, thus, refunded to you once the defendant satisfies the judgment.  

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