I was subpoenaed to appear in court. Do I need to go?

A police officer gave me a subpoena to appear in court.  Do I need to show up?

Of course you do.  A subpoena is a court order that requires your appearance at a specific place at a specific date and time.

There is specific language included in an official language that makes this  clear.  Subpoenas include the following language:

Pursuant to section 805.07 of the Wisconsin Statutes, you are hereby commanded to appear in person before [ …. designating the court, officer, or person and place of appearance], on [ …. date] at … o’clock …M., to give evidence in an action between …., plaintiff, and …., defendant.  [Insert clause requiring the production of material, if appropriate].  Failure to appear may result in punishment for contempt which may include monetary penalties, imprisonment and other sanctions.  Issued this …. day of …., …. (year)

The use of the word “commanded” is clear.  And so is the section describing punishment.  While the criminal defense attorneys are asked this question on a regular basis, the answer is always the same: you have to go.

But what if I don’t go, what actually happens?

It depends.  If you appear in Milwaukee County domestic violence court on a Monday or Wednesday, you’ll likely see dozens of jury trials being dismissed because of an uncooperative victim.  These are mostly offenses on the lower end of the criminal spectrum: batteries, disorderly conduct, and criminal damage to property charges.  As you move to more serious charges, prosecutors more-frequently ask that the court issue a warrant for the arrest of the victim.  Once the victim is arrested, she is brought to court and ordered to attend trial.

Other counties throughout Wisconsin deal with this situation much more aggressively, and are willing to request warrants for victims without hesitation.

What about the contempt?

Contempt is a term used for various violations that deal with the criminal justice system and its order.  Wis. Stat. sec. 785.01 prohibits “Disobedience, resistance, or obstruction of the authority, process or order of a court.”  More explicitly, Wis. Stat. sec. 785.01(1)(c) makes clear that it is contempt of court to refuse “as a witness to appear, be sworn or answer a question.”

The latter section is clear: refusing to show up in court, after subpoena, is contempt.

What are the punishments for contempt of court?

Wis. Stat. sec. 785.04 describes the authorized sanctions for contempt.  That section makes clear that imprisonment may occur for up to 6 months for a remedial sanction, and 12 months for a punitive sanction.  There are also monetary sanctions available, with the possibility of $2,000.00 a day sanction, for as many days as the contempt continues.

Contact the criminal defense attorneys at Van Severen Law Office for any criminal defense issues

The criminal defense attorneys at Van Severen Law Office spend every day focusing on defending individuals throughout Wisconsin accused of committing crimes.  Whether that is a contempt issue, or any other criminal issues, our attorneys have the intelligence and skill to provide the best criminal defense.  If you’ve been accused of committing a crime in Wisconsin, contact top criminal defense law firm Van Severen Law Office: (414) 270-0202

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