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Do You Have to Testify If You Are a Witness in a California Criminal Case?

October 7, 2019

If you refuse to testify, you could be held in contempt of court

Do You Have to Testify If You Are a Witness in a California Criminal Case?

Being a witness to — or a victim of — a crime can be incredibly scary. Having to go through the criminal justice process is intimidating, even if you are not being charged with a crime. This is particularly true for witnesses and victims who were involved in a violent crime, or who may fear for their lives if they testify. So what happens if you don’t want to testify in a criminal case?

In short, you could be held in contempt of court According to a criminal defense lawyer Rancho Cucamonga, CA, if you are found to be in contempt of court, you could be sent to jail for up to 5 days and/or subjected to a fine of $1,000. The only exception is for victims in domestic violence and sexual assault cases. While victims in these cases can be held in contempt of court, they cannot be sent to jail for refusing to testify.

Generally, a witness will be found in contempt of court if they fail to appear in court after being subpoenaed or if they appear in court and then refuse to testify. A subpoena is an order for a witness to appear, issued by a magistrate, judge, district attorney, attorney for the defendant, or investigator for the district attorney. A witness must be personally served with a subpoena — or be served by mail or messenger and acknowledge receipt of the subpoena.

If a person fails to appear in court after being served with a subpoena, they could be arrested if they fail to appear. If a witness appears in court and refuses to testify, they could be fined, jailed or even charged with a criminal offense. Refusing to testify (criminal contempt) is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

If you have been held in contempt of court for refusing to testify or for failure to appear, then you are entitled to a lawyer. A criminal defense lawyer Rancho Cucamonga, CA can represent you and may be able to present a defense as to why you are unwilling or unable to testify. For example, you may not be able to testify due to fear of incriminating yourself.

There may be situations where you have been pressured to not testify as a victim or a witness. This is a separate criminal offense. If you are scheduled to testify in a criminal matter and are being threatened or otherwise being told to not testify, a criminal defense lawyer Rancho Cucamonga, CA can give you advice about how to handle the situation.

If you have been charged with a crime, from refusing to testify to murder, the Chambers Law Firm can help. Contact us today at 855-397-0210 or dchambers@clfca.com to schedule a free initial consultation or to learn more about our team.

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