Will My Case Be Dismissed If The Witness Does Not Show Up In Court?

by J.D. Garrett on April 16, 2013

Disappearing WitnessQuite often we are asked by people accused of crimes, “will my case be dismissed if the witness does not show up in court?” The answer is not a simple “yes” or “no”.  The Virginia Criminal Code allows both the defendant and the prosecutor to ask for a continuance “for good cause”. Is the witness a civilian or a police officer? Most cases involving police officer witnesses rarely get dismissed due to no-shows. Police officers have particular days each month where they are due in court to hear all of their cases. If they fail to show, it’s generally for “good cause”.

If your case has never been before the court before (i.e., has not been continued), and the civilian witness does not show up, the judge will more than likely grant one continuance to the prosecutor to give them the opportunity to subpoena the witnesses. If, however, the matter has been continued before, particularly if that continuance was based on the witness no-show, the pendulum swings back in favor of the defendant, and a denial of the request. Of course, this too depends on the circumstances. If the witness does not show up because they are in the hospital, had a flight cancelled, or other issue beyond their control, the judge will be more accepting of the delay. But this too has its limits.

One thing every defendant should avoid is any appearance of witness intimidation. Never under any circumstances should a defendant encourage or threaten a witness not to appear in court. This action could give rise to a felony charge of obstruction of justice.

If you have questions regarding any criminal charge in Virginia Beach, contact our criminal defense team today. (757) 422-4646. Your questions are answered 24/7/365.


J.D. Garrett is a criminal law attorney in the Virginia Beach office of Garrett Law Group, PLC. He has years of experience representing clients in the courts of Virginia Beach, Norfolk and surrounding areas.

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