New York Law
Criminal Procedure Law
Consolidated Laws of New York
Search New York State CPL Laws
Article 620 - NY Criminal Procedure Law
SECURING ATTENDANCE OF WITNESSES BY MATERIAL WITNESS ORDER
S 620.10 Material witness order; defined.
A material witness order is a court order (a) adjudging a person a
material witness in a pending criminal action and (b) fixing bail to
secure his future attendance thereat.
S 620.20 Material witness order; when authorized; by what courts
issuable; duration thereof.
1. A material witness order may be issued upon the ground that there
is reasonable cause to believe that a person whom the people or the
defendant desire to call as a witness in a pending criminal action:
(a) Possesses information material to the determination of such
(b) Will not be amenable or responsive to a subpoena at a time when
his attendance will be sought.
2. A material witness order may be issued only when:
(a) An indictment has been filed in a superior court and is currently
pending therein; or
(b) A grand jury proceeding has been commenced and is currently
(c) A felony complaint has been filed with a local criminal court and
is currently pending therein.
3. The following courts may issue material witness orders under the
(a) When an indictment has been filed, or a grand jury proceeding has
been commenced, or a defendant has been held by a local criminal court
for the action of a grand jury, a material witness order may be issued
only by the superior court in which such indictment is pending or by
which such grand jury has been or is to be impaneled;
(b) When a felony complaint is currently pending in a district court
or in the New York City criminal court or before a superior court judge
sitting as a local criminal court, a material witness order may be
issued either by such court or by the superior court which would have
jurisdiction of the case upon a holding of the defendant for the action
of the grand jury;
(c) When a felony complaint is currently pending in a city court or a
town court or a village court, a material witness order may be issued
only by the superior court which would have jurisdiction of the case
upon a holding of the defendant for the action of the grand jury.
4. Unless vacated pursuant to section 620.60, a material witness
order remains in effect during the following periods of time under the
(a) An order issued by a superior court under the circumstances
prescribed in paragraph (a) of subdivision three remains in effect
during the pendency of the criminal action in such superior court;
(b) An order issued by a district court or the New York City criminal
court or a superior court judge sitting as a local criminal court, under
circumstances prescribed in paragraph (b) of subdivision three, remains
in effect (i) until the disposition of the felony complaint pending in
such court, and (ii) if the defendant is held for the action of a grand
jury, during the pendency of the grand jury proceeding, and (iii) if an
indictment results, for a period of ten days following the filing of
such indictment, and (iv) if within such ten day period such order is
indorsed by the superior court in which the indictment is pending,
during the pendency of the action in such superior court. Upon such
indorsement, the order is deemed to be that of the superior court.
(c) An order issued by a superior court under circumstances
prescribed in paragraph (c) of subdivision three remains in effect (i)
until the disposition of the felony complaint pending in the city, town
or village court, and (ii) if the defendant is held for the action of
the grand jury, during the pendency of the action in the superior court.
S 620.30 Material witness order; commencement of proceeding by
application; procurement of appearance of prospective witness.
1. A proceeding to adjudge a person a material witness must be
commenced by application to the appropriate court, made in writing and
subscribed and sworn to by the applicant, demonstrating reasonable cause
to believe the existence of facts, as specified in subdivision one of
section 620.20, warranting the adjudication of such person as a material
2. If the court is satisfied that the application is well founded,
the prospective witness may be compelled to appear in response thereto
(a) The court may issue an order directing him to appear therein at a
designated time in order that a determination may be made whether he
should be adjudged a material witness, and, upon personal service of
such order or a copy thereof within the state, he must so appear.
(b) If in addition to the allegations specified in subdivision one,
the application contains further allegations demonstrating to the
satisfaction of the court reasonable cause to believe that (i) the
witness would be unlikely to respond to such an order, or (ii) after
previously having been served with such an order, he did not respond
thereto, the court may issue a warrant addressed to a police officer,
directing such officer to take such prospective witness into custody
within the state and to bring him before the court forthwith in order
that a proceeding may be conducted to determine whether he is to be
adjudged a material witness.
S 620.40 Material witness order; arraignment.
1. When the prospective witness appears before the court, the court
must inform him of the nature and purpose of the proceeding, and that he
is entitled to a prompt hearing upon the issue of whether he should be
adjudged a material witness. The prospective witness possesses all the
rights, and is entitled to all the court instructions, with respect to
right to counsel, opportunity to obtain counsel and assignment of
counsel in case of financial inability to retain such, which, pursuant
to subdivisions three through five of section 180.10, accrue to a
defendant arraigned upon a felony complaint in a local criminal court.
2. If the proceeding is adjourned at the prospective witness'
instance, for the purpose of obtaining counsel or otherwise, the court
must order him to appear upon the adjourned date. The court may further
fix bail to secure his appearance upon such date or until the proceeding
is completed and, upon default thereof, may commit him to the custody of
the sheriff for such period.
S 620.50 Material witness order; hearing, determination and execution
1. The hearing upon the application must be conducted as follows:
(a) The applicant has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the
evidence all facts essential to support a material witness order, and
any testimony so adduced must be given under oath;
(b) The prospective witness may testify under oath or may make an
(c) The prospective witness may call witnesses in his behalf, and the
court must cause process to be issued for any such witness whom he
reasonably wishes to call, and any testimony so adduced must be given
(d) Upon the hearing, evidence tending to demonstrate that the
prospective witness does or does not possess information material to the
criminal action in issue, or that he will or will not be amenable or
respond to a subpoena at the time his attendance will be sought, is
admissible even though it consists of hearsay.
2. If the court is satisfied after such hearing that there is
reasonable cause to believe that the prospective witness (a) possesses
information material to the pending action or proceeding, and (b) will
not be amenable or respond to a subpoena at a time when his attendance
will be sought, it may issue a material witness order, adjudging him a
material witness and fixing bail to secure his future attendance.
3. A material witness order must be executed as follows:
(a) If the bail is posted and approved by the court, the witness
must, as provided in subdivision three of section 510.40, be released
and be permitted to remain at liberty; provided that, where the bail is
posted by a person other than the witness himself, he may not be so
released except upon his signed written consent thereto;
(b) If the bail is not posted, or if though posted it is not approved
by the court, the witness must, as provided in subdivision three of
section 510.40, be committed to the custody of the sheriff.
S 620.60 Material witness order; vacation, modification and
1. At any time after a material witness order has been issued the
court must, upon application of such witness, with notice to the party
upon whose application the order was issued, and with opportunity to be
heard, make inquiry whether by reason of new or changed facts or
circumstances the material witness order is no longer necessary or
warranted, or, if it is, whether the original bail currently appears
excessive. Upon making any such determination, the court must vacate
the order. If its determination is that the order is no longer
necessary or warranted, it must, as the situation requires, either
discharge the witness from custody or exonerate the bail. If its
determination is that the bail is excessive, it must issue a new order
fixing bail in a lesser amount or on less burdensome terms.
2. At any time when a witness is at liberty upon bail pursuant to a
material witness order, the court may, upon application of the party
upon whose application the order was issued, with notice to the witness
if possible and to his attorney if any and opportunity to be heard, make
inquiry whether, by reason of new or changed facts or circumstances, the
original bail is no longer sufficient to secure the future attendance of
the witness at the pending action. Upon making such a determination,
the court must vacate the order and issue a new order fixing bail in a
greater amount or on terms more likely to secure the future attendance
of the witness.
S 620.70 Material witness order; compelling attendance of witness who
fails to appear.
If a witness at liberty on bail pursuant to a material witness order
cannot be found or notified at the time his appearance as a witness is
required, or if after notification he fails to appear in such action or
proceeding as required, the court may issue a warrant, addressed to a
police officer, directing such officer to take such witness into custody
anywhere within the state and to bring him to the court forthwith.
S 620.80 Material witness order; witness fee.
A witness held in the custody of the sheriff as a result of a material
witness order must be paid the sum of three dollars per day for each day
of confinement in such custody. Such compensation is a county charge
and is payable upon release of such material witness from custody or, in
the discretion of the court, at any designated times or intervals during
the confinement as the court may deem appropriate.
Top of Page
Criminal Procedure Law - Table of Contents
- A comprehensive on-line digest of New York's criminal code.