What happens if your summoned as a witness and don’t show up?

My ex-girlfriend was arrested for domestic assault on me. She’s actually the one who called the police. I never wanted her arrested and I didn’t press any charges. Well the trial for her is next week and I got a summons in the mail to be a witness. I know the summons is a standard form that says if you fail to appear, a warrant can be put out for your arrest, but does MA really do that in a situation like this?

Asked on July 16, 2011 under Criminal Law, Massachusetts

Answers:

Stan Helinski / McKinley Law Group

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

I just added a video to my website about these situations and thought of this post... may be of interest to you. 

 

http://www.massadvocate.com/#!__criminal-lawyer-massachusetts/media-library 

Stan Helinski / McKinley Law Group

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

No, they do not issue a warrant (capias).  Unless it's a Superior Court case (the case was indicted), if the summonsed witness does not appear, the case is dismissed (without prejudice, meaning that the case can be brought back). I've never seen a district court issue a warrant for a non-appearing witness. Keep in mind, that I'm not suggesting you shouldn't show, I'm just answering your question as to whether courts issue a capias.  The lawful thing to do would be to contact the ADA assigned to the case and report that you don't want to case to proceed, and then show up for trial and report to the court that you don't want the case to proceed.  The court has a colloquy (sp?) that you would be given (this depends on the court), asking whether you've been pressured, etc., and the case is dismissed.  But the honest, law-abiding thing to do would be to contact the DA's office and let them know that you don't want to testify. 

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Yes, they do, not only in Massacheustts but in pretty much every jurisdiction in every state.  The Prosecturos and District Attorneys have the authority to ask for a  warrant should you not appear. Although it appears that you are not the complaining witness here because you did no swear out the complaint - and you may not have had to depending; the state probably takes domestic violence cases very seriously and filed on their own - you are the prosecutions key witness.  I would go and consult with an attorney on this matter if I were you.  You do not need to end up being thrown in jail here.  And you need to understand all your rights as well. Good luck.  


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