Whenever one is alleged of having in custody material(s) or information or a piece of information significant to a criminal lawsuit in the court of law; then, the person is referred to as a material witness.

A material witness is a person who is assumed to have in possession information about a matter of a case that is still ongoing in a competent jurisdiction court of law.

The first Judiciary Act of 1789 specifies that a material witness can be detained; however, the Bail Reform Act of 1984 amended the statute which is now codified at18 U.S.C. Ss 3144.

Situations may arise where a material witness will not want to testify at a criminal trial in the court of law due to fear of reprisal, not be duly informed about the case through the court order or other reasons best known to the witness. Whatever reasons the witness is laying claims to for not willing to testify, it lies in the clout of the prosecutors to see that justice prevails in every court proceedings.

What is a reasonable arrest?

According to the Federal law of the United States, law enforcement agents can arrest and detain a person if they have “reasonable cause” that the person in question possesses information significant to a judgment delivery of a pending criminal proceeding. Secondly, if a material witness will not respond to a court order when his attendance will be needed in the law court.

If the prosecutors however want the person to testify, they can secure and have the witness testified in the law court by issuing a material witness warrant.

What is material witness warrant?

This refers to the power a court of law has to arrest an individual who has been duly served with a subpoena but fails to attend court. A material witness warrant can, however, be unconstitutional and a violation of human rights when the authority is abused by the prosecutors or leads to wrongful conviction.

The law states that prosecutors in charge of such case may be sued regardless of the broad protection they have against lawsuits. It is the duty of an experienced defense attorney to help such material witness exercise his rights when such situation occurs.

How long can Law enforcement officers detain a Material Witness?

The constitution states that the law enforcement officers to detain a material witness for as long as the judge deems it necessary to avert failure of justice. 

The same federal material witness statute that authorizes the arrest of material witnesses also permits their release once their sworn have been taken.

All things being equal, no matter how significant the information concealed or discovered in material witness’ custody is, the person should not be charged with a crime and be acquainted once the lawsuit is finished.

Should a material witness turns out to be a suspect in the case, he is not obliged to testify against or incriminate himself in any form. Here, he will need the help of a competent criminal defense attorney in order to pervert punishment in the court of law. Consult with qualified defense attorney today to know more about Arrests and Material Witness

Contact Us