What is my legal obligation to attend a court date as a witness?
February 16, 2005 7:30 AM   Subscribe

What, to your knowledge, is the law of obligation to attend a court date as a witness (MI)?
posted by mic stand to Law & Government (13 answers total)
Contempt of AskMe! You failed to put the promised MORE inside.


Assuming you have been Summoned, if you fail to show, you could be held "In Contempt". The judge gets to lock you up without trial.
posted by Goofyy at 7:36 AM on February 16, 2005

Common Law is a bitch. I think being a witness should be 100% voluntary and you shouldn't be 'forced' to stand when a judge comes in the court room or any of the other judges seemingly god-given discretions.

I would LOVE to know why it is against the law to do either, and how abiding by Common Law is referenced in the constitution.
posted by remlapm at 7:40 AM on February 16, 2005

Subpoena, contempt of court, oh, and perjury on Wikipedia. My recommendation is don't play hookie, and don't lie. You still have the Fifth Amendment on your side (in the US).
posted by Plutor at 8:09 AM on February 16, 2005

There are exceptions to subpoena rules. They will vary by state. For example, in Texas, someone may be subpoenaed only if they reside or are present within 150 miles of the trial venue (Civil Practice and Remedies Code ยง 22.002). And you have to pay them $10 plus expenses.

And I'd love to know where in the constitution it references statute as the only law. Our legal system would come to a crashing halt without common law, as large parts of it simply aren't specified in statute. In fact, statutes frequently reference common law, because there is an expectation that it exists.

I think the common law system has served us well for centuries, and if the people don't like something in common law, they can get their legislators to override it.
posted by grouse at 8:18 AM on February 16, 2005

The only way I see around Common Law is to be one of those posse comitatus guys who claims that the Constitution was never properly verified and that therefore we are still living in the era of the Articles Of Confederation, giving supreme executive power to your local sheriff.
posted by inksyndicate at 8:28 AM on February 16, 2005

(off topic) inksyndicate - In the UK today The Countryside Alliance failed to have the Hunting Act (banning hunting with hounds) thrown out by claiming that the 1949 Parliament Act, which MPs used to introduce the Hunting Act after House of Lords opposition, is invalid.
posted by brettski at 9:06 AM on February 16, 2005

Well, there's ethical & legal obligation, and then there's what may or may not happen if you don't fulfill it. As an example, typical domestic violence law as practiced in general sessions court often goes something like this:

Lawyer tells defendent that if the subpoenaed/injured party doesn't show up, state won't have case, although he cannot legally advise you to tell them not to.

After three sessions of no-shows, the judge dismisses the case for failure to prosecute. Courts are generally too busy to follow up on the witness and actually prosecute them for non-appearance, particularly if they've demonstrated an unwillingness to prosecute. Of course, and not to sound cavalier, we're not talking felonies here. YMMV.
posted by Pressed Rat at 9:23 AM on February 16, 2005

If you can't be there because of a prior obligation, let the court know. If there's time they should reschedule the trial if you're a key witness.

If you are a key witness and they do this for you, SHOW UP. Someone's criminal record is on the line. It's the next biggest favour you can do for someone to saving them from being maimed. Nobody should be forced to live with a crminal record that doesn't deserve one. In the same way, nobody who has comitted a crime should be going free because you didn't bother to give evidence.

If the ethical obligation isn't enough for you, remember, a *judge* is telling you to go. Not a policeman. The police don't get to throw you in jail (well, not for long, anyways). The judge, though, he gets to throw you in jail. You'd be smart to make a good impression on people with that sort of power. Of course, that's just me...
posted by shepd at 10:30 AM on February 16, 2005

Oh, as a side note, to those of you believing the court system requires common law to function, you might want to mention that to Quebec (their laws are based on Civil Law). Personal grudges aside, the place runs, as a whole, smoothly.

Here's a paper on it.
posted by shepd at 10:43 AM on February 16, 2005

Oh, as a side note, to those of you believing the court system requires common law to function, you might want to mention that to Quebec.

Er, and most of Europe!
posted by dmt at 11:03 AM on February 16, 2005

Shepd: I think the assertion was that systems of law built upon centuries of common law require common law in order to function, not that every sysetem of law can requires common law in order to function.
posted by onshi at 11:41 AM on February 16, 2005

IANAL, but I'll share some personal experience that may or may not be relevant to your situation...
I was defrauded on eBay last year and the perp was prosecuted in his home state and sent to trial. I received a subpoena (by regular first class mail) stating that I was being summoned to appear as a witness. I called the D. A.'s office, explaining that I had already given all of my emails and other exchanges between the seller to the investigating police officer as evidence. They explained to me that I was not required to be there, but that there was a possibility that if I did not show up as a witness, that my charge would be dropped.
Not sure if this is similar to your situation, but as grouse mentioned above there are rules governing the subpoena of witnesses between states, if you feel as though your appearance would pose an undue hardship and you feel as though your testimony may not be crucial to the proceeding.
You might need to communicate with the prosecuting or defense attorney to clarify.
posted by Dr. Zira at 12:14 PM on February 16, 2005

Oh, as a side note, to those of you believing the court system requires common law to function, you might want to mention that to Quebec.

Er, and most of Europe!

Louisiana too.
posted by norm at 2:45 PM on February 16, 2005

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