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When Can A Body Attachment Be Issued By A Judge Related To A Criminal Subpoena in Los Angeles?

Posted by Ronald D. Hedding, ESQ. | Dec 07, 2018

These body attachments are scary because when witnesses don't show up in court pursuant to subpoenas, the person that subpoenaed that particular witness, especially in a criminal case where you have a lot of power because someone's freedom is on the line — that person can ask the judge to issue a body attachment.  Once that body attachment is issued, if law enforcement comes in contact with that person, that person is going to be arrested, taken into custody and brought into court at the next court date.

That's not a good thing.  What if the next court date isn't until two weeks away?  How do you even get out of a body attachment once you're caught?  You can't post any bail or anything.   So, that's a scary thing.  I was watching a prosecutor who had subpoenaed somebody to appear and was saying he wanted a body attachment issued.  It held.

He wasn't going to try to get the person right away.  The judge said, okay, show me that you actually served the person.  He says, I don't have the service with me.  One of my officers has it, and the judge says, I'm not issuing the body attachment then.  You have to show me that you personally served that person.

What Happens If You Don't Show Up in Court?

So, that's how serious judges take those things because they don't want someone to be arrested and taken into custody if things weren't done properly.  That's why when people call me and they say, I'm supposed to appear in court.  What if I don't show up?  What will happen?  And I say, if they issued you a subpoena and they served it and they put it in your hand and you don't show up, who knows what will happen.

They could just ignore it if they don't really need you as a witness, or they could ask the judge to issue a body attachment in Los Angeles county and then take you into custody when they get their hands on you and force you to come in.  Then the judge will order you testify.

A lot of people think they can plead the Fifth, but you really can't plead the Fifth unless you actually might incriminate yourself and you have to show that you're going to incriminate yourself.  You'd have to have an attorney telling the judge for example, that you're going to incriminate yourself and they're advising you not to testify, otherwise the judge is going to order you to testify and they're going to bring you in there.

You Must Be Personally Served

So, these body attachments are scary because nobody wants to be taken into custody.  Nobody wants to be taken into custody.  Nobody wants to be held against their will.  But there are circumstances where the person who is attempting to get the body attachment doesn't properly serve the individual that they're trying to get the attachment for the criminal case in Los Angeles.  Then the body attachment is not going to be issued by the judge.

If the police just drop it off at your house because you're not there and you don't show up, that's not good cause to issue a body attachment against you.  If they put a subpoena in the mail for a criminal case, that's not a good cause to issue a body attachment in Los Angeles.  They have to personally serve you.

Then they have to put a declaration under penalty of perjury whoever the person is who personally served you with the subpoena, and then they can ask the judge for body attachment to try to get you into court related to that matter to testify.

So, bet your bottom dollar that in criminal cases in Los Angeles, those body attachments are issued all the time.  Sometimes they're just issued and when law enforcement comes in contact with that person, they're going to be arrested.  Other times, they're issued and held so the person that had it issued can hold the court's feet to the fire and keep jurisdiction if they need it, if push comes to shove, they need that witness — the case is going to start a trial, their preliminary hearing and they want that witness to testify, then they can issue the bottom attachment — send the police over, grab that person and get them in to testify. Contact our law firm for additional information.

Related Resources:
Under What Circumstances Will A Body Attachment Be Issued For A Witness In A Criminal Case?

About the Author

Ronald D. Hedding, ESQ.

Ronald D. Hedding, Esq., is the founding member of the Hedding Law Firm. Mr. Hedding has an extensive well-rounded legal background in the area of Criminal Law. He has worked for the District Attorney's Office, a Superior Court Judge, and as the guiding force behind the Hedding Law Firm. His multi-faceted experience sets Mr. Hedding apart and puts him in an elite group of the best Criminal Defense Attorneys in Southern California.