Ask the Lawyer

Allegra Montgomery Walker

Question: I am a victim of a domestic assault. I received a court issued subpoena in the mail, but I really don’t want to go because my boyfriend might get in trouble. I heard that I could get arrested if I do not go to court. Is this true? What are my options?

Answer: A court subpoena is a summons that requires you to appear in court, usually for the purpose of giving testimony. Additionally, the subpoena is issued by the court presiding over the case in which the person is being sought to testify. In Tennessee, victims of crimes, or other important witnesses for the state, will also receive a court subpoena. A court subpoena can be issued several ways. Typically, it is issued by personal service; U.S. mail; or by telephone.

There are many reasons why people do not want to appear in court, including getting the accused convicted of a crime as you have indicated. However, regardless of the reason, a court subpoena requires the summoned party to appear in court or be held in contempt. In the event, you fail to appear, the judge may hold you in contempt of court. A contempt charge can result in the issuance of a bench warrant for you arrest, a fine or even jail time.

As it relates to you being a victim of domestic assault, you should really comply with the court order and appear in court. Domestic violence is a crime that is treated very seriously in Davidson County. The goal of the Court is to ensure that victims of domestic violence are safe. I would encourage you to talk with the victim witness advocate that is assigned to your case. Express to them your concerns about the case; your safety issues; the need of the defendant to get counseling for his violent behavior; or your desire to seek resources for you or your children. Although court is typically an adversarial environment, it is available to help victims of crimes. If you have a subpoena, and you are not sure how to respond, contact a lawyer who can give you legal advice. You may also consider contacting the person who requested the subpoena.

This article is not legal advice. It is for informational purposes only. You should consult an attorney for legal advice.

Allegra Montgomery Walker is an assistant district attorney with the 21st District, Davidson County Office.