If You Have Received a Subpoena

If you are a victim, or witness, of a crime, you are important to the court process. When you receive a subpoena, it means that you have been given notice that you must go to court.

The Victim Witness Assistance (VWA) program provides support services to crime victims and witnesses who are subpoenaed to appear in either Provincial Court or Court of Queen's Bench, in Winnipeg.

Click here to learn more about the Victim Witness Assistance Program

What is a subpoena?

A subpoena is an official notice from the court saying you must go to court at a certain time and place to testify. A subpoena is a legal document and you must take it seriously.

What does, “having to testify” mean?

If the accused person enters a “not guilty” plea, you may be required to testify in court. Testifying means you have to tell a judge, in a courtroom, everything you have seen, or all the information you know, about the alleged crime. You will have to testify at a preliminary hearing or at a trial because you know things about the crime that may help decide what happens with the case.

As a victim, or witness, testifying in court, you should know that:

  • you can ask for a language interpreter or sign language interpreter to help you when you testify.
  • if you are a person with a disability or special needs, you can ask for special assistance to make it possible for you to attend court.
  • if you are under the age of 14, a support person may be allowed to be near you when you testify.
  • if you are under the age of 18, or have a physical or mental disability, you may have the right to testify via closed-circuit television, behind a screen or other device in the courtroom.

What will happen if I am subpoenaed and don’t attend court?

If you receive a subpoena and don’t attend court on the date you are ordered to do so, it is possible that a warrant could be issued for your arrest.

What can I do if I have a good reason for not attending court?

If you have serious reasons for not going to court, you must discuss this in advance with the Crown attorney in charge of the case. Only the Crown attorney can allow you to be excused from going to court. If you do not know how to reach the Crown attorney’s office in your area, call toll free 1-866-635-1111 in Manitoba; or in Winnipeg, call 204-945-3594 for help.

Can I be fired from my job for having to attend court?

No. It is against the law for an employer to fire a person who has received a subpoena and must attend court. Your employer does not have to pay you for the time that you are in court and not at work.

What can I do if I have safety concerns?

Going to court to testify can make people nervous and frightened. Sometimes, they are afraid for their personal safety. If you are concerned about your personal safety, please contact the Crown attorney who is handling the case, or your nearest Victim Services office.

Who is the Crown attorney?

Each criminal case is prosecuted by a Crown attorney, who is a lawyer representing the Government of Manitoba. You do not need to hire your own lawyer. The Crown attorney will consider your interests as the victim, but it is important to remember that the Crown attorney is not your lawyer. The Crown attorney must prosecute a case fairly and be fair to all parties in the case, including witnesses, victims and the accused. The Crown attorney must also take into account the public interest.

What do I do when I have to go to court?

When you go to court, bring your subpoena with you. If the subpoena says you are to be in court at 9:00 a.m., you must be prepared to stay all day. If you gave a statement at the time of the crime, you will be allowed to review it on the day of court. When you are asked to testify, you will go to the front of the courtroom to be sworn in. The court clerk will ask you to take the Bible in your right hand, state your full name, and swear to tell the truth. You must give your name and promise to tell the truth, but you do not have to swear on a Bible, if you do not want to.

Can I sit in court and listen to the case before it is my turn to testify?

No. People who will have to testify cannot sit in the courtroom until they have finished testifying about the case.

What happens at trial?

In a criminal trial, the Crown attorney starts by telling or presenting their case against the accused. The Crown asks witnesses questions to find out what they know about the crime. After every witness has answered the Crown’s questions, the lawyer for the accused (defence lawyer) can then ask questions, or “cross-examine” the witness. When the Crown is finished calling witnesses, the defence lawyer then presents their case in defence of the accused. Once the defence lawyer has questioned witnesses, the Crown may then ask those witnesses questions as well. Once you have testified, and the judge says you can go, you may leave the courtroom.

How do I prepare for court?

It is your responsibility to make the necessary arrangements for things such as your job, babysitting, transportation and parking to make sure you are available when you are called to testify. If you have difficulty making these arrangements, please call your nearest Crown attorney’s office or toll free in Manitoba at 1-866-635-1111.

How do I arrange travel to court from out of town?

If you live outside the area or community where you are supposed to testify, you must tell the Crown attorney that you might need help with travel arrangements. The Crown attorney will decide if you must be present in court.

Is there any other help available for victims of crime?

As a victim of crime, you may need some help before you have to go to court. Within the Manitoba criminal justice system, there are a variety of victim services. Some victim services are special and serve only the needs of victims of domestic violence, child victims, and victims registered under The Victims’ Bill of Rights.

Click here to learn more about the Domestic Violence Support Service

Click here to learn more about the Child Victim Support Service

Click here to learn more about the Victim Rights Support Service and The Victims’ Bill of Rights