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What happens when a Witness does not Show Up to Court

May 18, 2015 | Legal Terminology, Personal Injury

What happens when your witness does not show up when he is called to the stand? You might feel that such a situation is rare or unheard but it happens more often than you think, especially in personal injury cases.

There can be many reasons for the witness not showing up. For instance, you could have subpoenaed a witness, and the witness might have ignored the subpoena. Maybe the witness has voluntarily agreed to come in and testify, but now he is stuck in traffic. There could be many different reasons for a witness not showing up, despite the fact that he is scheduled to arrive on that date and time.

Judge will Question the Attorney

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If subpoenaed, a witness is bound to be present in the court to give their honest and clear testimony.

Therefore, what happens next when your witness does not show up to testify? The judge will ask your lawyer many questions to try to find out why the witness has not turned up. For instance, the judge might ask:

  • Did you subpoena the witness?
  • Did you talk to the witness today?
  • Did the witness promise to be present?
  • What time was the witness given to come to court?

Such a situation does not look good. There could be a packed courtroom, the jury is waiting to start, the judge is on the bench, asking your lawyer to call the next witness and your witness has failed to appear in court. The judge now has to figure out how to solve this problem without wasting any further time of the court. The judge might want to move the case forward and would want the jury to listen to other testimonies. The judge will most likely ask your lawyer whether he has any more witnesses lined up for that day.

Your case could be in jeopardy at this point – not a pleasant feeling to have.

The Judge is in Charge of Planning and Scheduling Witness Appearances for the Trial

At the beginning of the trial, the judge will most likely ask the two attorneys several questions about witnesses such as, how many witnesses do you have, and who is going to come and testify on each given date. Why does the judge need to know this information? The judge must know this information because he has to plan and schedule things in the trial accordingly. More importantly, the judge would want to tell the jury which witnesses are coming on each given day of the trial.

What is going?!

Hence, the day before the judge would have told the jury about the list of witnesses that are going to take the stand tomorrow. However, what happens if a witness from this list does not show up? In all likelihood, the judge will extend some courtesy to your lawyer and provide some extra time for him to find the witness. The judge might ask your lawyer to contact the witness on the phone and find out if he is stuck in traffic, if he is not feeling well, or he has forgotten about the date to appear in court.

What happens if an hour goes by and still the witness does not show up in court? Your lawyer and the judge now have a problem on their hands, and the judge will have to fashion some solution. Hopefully, your lawyer has other witnesses lined up and if not the judge might postpone the trial for a day. However, it is always wise to make sure all your witnesses show up at the appointed time. If you have to arrange transportation or pick them up then perhaps that is what you should do.