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Consequences of Refusing to Testify in a Domestic Violence Case

Jan 03, 2018 by Mike McKneely in Domestic Violence

California law allows the victims of domestic violence the freedom to refuse to testify in a domestic violence case. Although the court will not place the witness in jail, there may still be consequences a victim can face for withholding testimony.

If you have been charged with domestic violence, one of the important first steps to take is obtaining strong legal counsel. Attorney Michael McKneely has significant experience on both the prosecution and defense sides of the justice system. He understands what it takes to defend you with intelligent representation that achieves the best possible result in your case.

To schedule a free, initial consultation, call us today (559) 443-7442, or fill out our contact form.

The Complexity of Domestic Violence Situations

Each year, thousands of people are arrested in California for some form of domestic violence. In many of these cases the alleged victim wants to avoid the prosecution of the alleged abuser, who is now a defendant. There are various reasons why the alleged victim may feel this way, including:

  • They rely on the defendant to work and support the family financially
  • They feel they overreacted to the situation and regret calling 911 or the police
  • They don’t want the defendant to have a criminal record
  • Anger or other motives caused them to exaggerate their statement to the police
  • They wish to reconcile with the defendant
  • They were under the influence of alcohol or drugs and failed to give an accurate account of what occurred

Not every charge of domestic violence can be resolved with the cooperation of the alleged victim. Some people choose to refuse to testify in a domestic violence case because they are under intimidation by the defendant in one way or another. They may also feel uncertain or scared to testify with the defendant present in court.

Prosecutors, on the other hand, often go after a conviction in a domestic violence case, regardless of whether or not the alleged victim testifies against the defendant. Nevertheless, because of California law, the alleged victim has the right to not testify against the defendant.

Declining to Provide Testimony

Section 1219 of California’s Code of Civil Procedure states:

“Notwithstanding any other law, no court may imprison or otherwise confine or place in custody the victim of a sexual assault or domestic violence crime for contempt when the contempt consists of refusing to testify concerning that sexual assault or domestic violence crime.”

Prior to the implementation of Marsy’s Law in California, courts had the legal authority to impose certain penalties upon victims who refuse to testify in a domestic violence case. These penalties could include jail time and community service. However, under Marsy’s Law, a victim facing a contempt of court charge may only be subject to fines, provided they obey their subpoenas, including appearing at trial.

According to California’s Victims Bill of Rights, domestic abuse victims may:

  • Insist on conditions for carrying out a deposition, interview, or discovery proceeding
  • Refuse a deposition, interview, or discovery request from the defendant, the defendant’s attorney, or for any person working on the defendant’s behalf

Although victims may refuse to testify in a domestic violence case, they are not legally allowed to avoid participation in official court proceedings. That participation may simply involve arriving on time and formally refusing the court’s command to provide testimony.

A skilled attorney in domestic violence cases can help you understand the potential consequences involved with refusing to testify against your alleged abuser.

Get Help from an Experienced California Domestic Violence Attorney

At Michael McKneely, Criminal Defense Lawyer, Attorney Michael McKneely can review your case, explain your options, and build a strong defense on your behalf to mitigate, and if possible, eliminate the charges and consequences you are facing. To set up a free, no obligation consultation, call us today at (559) 443-7442 or email us through our contact form.

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