If I Received a Subpoena, Do I Have to Go to Court Even if I Don’t Want to Pursue Domestic Violence Charges?

A subpoena in a domestic violence case is serious. Ignoring it is not the answer.

The short answer to this is that a subpoena is a legally binding court order for you to appear in Court.  Failure to abide by a court order can result in a finding of contempt.  A finding of contempt can result in jail time. That is the short answer.  The longer answer is that this question is slightly more complicated.

There are many cases of alleged domestic violence where the alleged victim does not want to show up to testify against the defendant.  There are many reasons for this, some valid and some not.   Without going into the reasons for not wanting to testify against a defendant, a legally issued subpoena is a court order to get the alleged victim or other witnesses to court.

This raises several other questions.  First, what is a legally issued subpoena?  In order to be legally binding, the subpoena must be legally served on the alleged victim or other witness.  Second, what happens if I do not go to court despite the subpoena?

To get answers, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney.  Collins & Collins, P.C. can help, contact us online or by (505) 242-5958.

Requirements for Service of a Subpoena

The subpoena must be handed to the alleged victim personally.
Addressing the first question,  the subpoena must be personally served on the alleged victim or witness to be legally issued and binding.  The subpoena cannot be mailed.  Nor can the subpoena be left on the door or mailbox.  The subpoena must be handed to the alleged victim personally.  In some cases, the subpoena may be left with an adult member of the household.

If the subpoena is not legally served on the alleged victim or witness, then there is no legally binding order for the person to appear in court.  As such, there is no power of contempt in the court.   On the other hand, if the subpoena is properly served on the alleged victim or witness, then that person is obligated to go to court under the threat of contempt.  This can create a lot of stress for alleged victims who do not want to pursue the domestic violence charges.

Consequences of No-Show on Subpoena Vary with Circumstances

There are many variables that will determine if a bench warrant is issued for failure to attend a hearing under subpoena.  These include the individual judge, past history of domestic violence in the household, seriousness of the charges, whether there were injuries, and more.

So the second and ultimate question is what can or will the judge do if I do not show up for court despite a legal subpoena?  This question is perhaps most complicated of all.  The answer depends on many variables.  These include the nature and seriousness of the alleged acts of domestic violence, the history of domestic violence in the household, the criminal history of the defendant and other circumstances of the parties and the alleged incident.  In addition, the outcome may also depend on the court and the judge.

Because of the potential finding of contempt, there are many cases where it is advisable for the alleged victim to obtain his or her own attorney.  There are many variables involved in the answer to the question of “What happens if I do not go to court despite a subpoena?”  As such, the guidance of an attorney would likely prove very helpful.

Seek Legal Guidance

Because contempt and bench warrant is possible, proceed with caution and seek legal guidance to understand your rights.

Because it is possible that you may be held in contempt for a failure to show in court on a subpoena, it is advisable to seek the assistance of counsel.  This is particularly so if the prosecutor’s office is behaving aggressively toward you which is not too uncommon.

The help of an experienced criminal defense attorney can go a long way toward alleviating many of your concerns while also determining the appropriate course of conduct in your particular case.


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