Switch to ADA Accessible Website
Orlando Criminal Lawyer

Corruption & Abuse in Material Witness Cases


An article released by The New York Times on September 8th has those involved in criminal justice for defendants across the country concerned. The article describes how witness warrants were not only misused, but harmed both defendants and the witnesses themselves.

Material witness warrants are one of the most expansive powers provided to law enforcement. They allow police and prosecutors to force an individual to testify if they believe that that person has knowledge of a crime. They are typically handed out to individuals who are not under suspicion (unlike your typical subpoena); as those individuals simply contain information that law enforcement wants.

Strict Rules Governing Material Witness Warrants

As a result, strict rules govern material witness warrants: they are only supposed to be used in extraordinary circumstances (for example, if a prosecutor is concerned that an important witness might flee). They must also first be signed by judges, and these witnesses can only be arrested if they first ignore an order to appear in court. In those circumstances, they must also be provided with an attorney, and presented in front of a judge—in a hearing—in order to first determine what they know and why they are reluctant to reveal it due to the sometimes sensitive nature of these cases and the relevant, important information involved.

Abuse for Both Witnesses & Defendants

However, court papers recently filed claim that some district attorney offices misused these warrants while pursuing prosecutions, and this harmed both the relevant defendants and witnesses involved. Accusations presented in the claims described some witnesses being unlawfully held in custody, as well as being coerced into providing testimony against a defendant and subsequently providing false accounts in court.

As part of this issue, it is important to note just how difficult, in general, it is to know how much abuse has been involved when it comes to material witnesses because the process, in its essence, occurs behind the scenes in the criminal justice system. There isn’t even a tracking system for how many material witnesses have gone before judges.

However, one woman’s story encapsulates what could be happening on a regular basis to these individuals: After being mistakenly identified as a material witness, she was interrogated for nearly 10 hours at the district attorney’s office for two days in a row. She then proceeded to sue her interrogators for violating her due process rights. Although her case was initially dismissed because the judge found that her interrogators had prosecutorial immunity, the Appeals Court overturned the dismissal, indicating that not only did defendants not enjoy immunity (given the circumstances of her case), but that material witness warrants should never be used to authorize an arrest and justify prolonged detention for the purposes of conducting investigative interrogations.

Criminal Defense Attorneys Who Care

Given all of the potential abuse inherent in the criminal justice system, if you have been accused of a crime, it is absolutely necessary that you consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Contact the Baez Law Firm today to find out how we can help by providing you and your loved ones with a free consultation and the very best in criminal defense representation.



  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn

Miami Office

1200 Brickell Avenue, Suite 1410
Miami, FL 33131
Office: 305-999-5100
Fax: 305-999-5111

Orlando Office

250 N Orange Ave, Suite 750
Orlando, FL 32801
Office: 407-705-2626
Fax: 407-705-2625

Email Us

Fields Marked * Are required

DISCLAIMER: Completing and submitting this form or otherwise merely contacting The Baez Law Firm or any individual at the firm will not establish an attorney/client relationship. Our firm cannot represent you until we determine that there would be no conflict of interest and that we are otherwise able to accept representation of your case. Please do not send any information or documents until a formal attorney/client relationship has been established through an interview with an attorney and you have been given authorization in the form of an engagement letter with The Baez Law Firm. Any information or documents sent via this form or otherwise prior to your receipt of an engagement letter will not be treated as confidences, secrets, or protected information of any nature. Submitting information regarding your potential case will not bar The Baez Law Firm from representing or continuing to represent a person or entity whose interest are adverse to your in condition with your case.

protected by reCAPTCHA Privacy - Terms
Please review the highlighted fields. They are required.
DISCLAIMER: This website contains information about The Baez Law Firm that includes testimonial statements from persons who are familiar with the firm's services. The testimonials shown are not necessarily representative of every person's experience with us. Testimonials from every client are not provided. As no two situations or persons are identical, the facts and circumstances of your situation may differ from those for which testimonials are shown. This website also includes information about some of the past results that we have obtained for our clients. Not all results are provided, and the results shown are not necessarily representative of all results obtained by us. No two situation are exactly alike; every person's situation is unique and the outcome for each person depends on the individual facts.

The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.
MileMark Media - Practice Growth Solutions

© 2015 - 2024 Baez Law Firm. All rights reserved.
This law firm website and legal marketing are managed by MileMark Media.

Contact Form Tab Contact Form Tab