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Do Domestic Violence Victims Have to Testify?

Dec 29, 2017 by Mike McKneely in Assault, Criminal Defense

Domestic violence is a complex and sensitive issue. On the one hand, abuse is something that no one should ever have to live through. On the other hand, many people deserve a second chance. Unlike some states, California law puts some of the power to forgive a suspected perpetrator of domestic violence in the hands of the victims by making it easier for them to refuse to testify in court. This empowers couples to reconcile and resolve their domestic issues on their own.

Previously, domestic violence victims could be jailed for refusing to testify against a spouse or partner who allegedly assaulted them. Now, domestic violence survivors can refuse to testify – although they may get fined. A refusal to testify usually results in the domestic violence charges being dropped for lack of evidence.

If you’re facing having to testify against your ex or current spouse in a domestic violence case, all a Fresno domestic violence attorney from Michael McKneely, Criminal Defense Lawyer at (559) 443-7442 for a free and confidential case consultation.

Domestic Violence Victims Cannot Be Jailed for Refusing to Testify in a Criminal Trial

Prosecutors and defense attorneys in criminal cases have the authority to subpoena important witnesses. Known as material witnesses, these people have critical evidence regarding the case. If you are a material witness and you disobey a subpoena ordering you to appear in court, a judge can issue a warrant for your arrest and hold you in contempt of court, which may result in fines and jail time.

If you are a survivor of domestic violence or sexual assault, you cannot be jailed for your refusal to testify. You can, however, still be fined for contempt of court. This has been the case since the people of California approved the Victims’ Bill of Rights Act of 2008, also known as Marsy’s Law. This law amended the California Constitution to guarantee several rights, including:

  • The right “to be treated with fairness and respect for his or her privacy and dignity, and to be free from intimidation, harassment, and abuse, throughout the criminal or juvenile justice process.”
  • The right to “refuse an interview, deposition, or discovery request by the defendant, the defendant’s attorney, or any other person acting on behalf of the defendant, and to set reasonable conditions on the conduct of any such interview to which the victim consents.”

Just because you don’t have to testify doesn’t mean that you can ignore your subpoena. If you fail to show up to court altogether, you may be jailed for contempt. The only way to exercise your right to not testify is to go to court on the specified date and then tell the judge that you won’t testify. The judge will refer you to a domestic violence counselor. If you still refuse to testify after counseling, the judge may hold you in contempt and impose a fine.

Should I Testify in a Domestic Violence Case Against my Partner?

This is a very personal decision, one that every person might answer differently depending on their specific situation, and the nature of their relationship with the defendant. If you do not testify, you may be fined. If you are serious about giving your partner a second chance, the fines may be worth it.

If you don’t want to testify because you are afraid of the reactions of your partner or their friends and family, bear in mind that you can seek protection. And if your partner has threatened to hurt you if you testify against them, they have committed the crime of threatening a witness.

Michael McKneely, Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help

If you want to exercise your right to not testify in a domestic violence case, you should do so with the help of an experienced Fresco domestic violence lawyer. Attorney Mike McKneely understands the stress domestic violence victims face, and can explain the potential consequences of your refusal to testify.

Call us today at (559) 443-7442 for more information on your rights as a domestic violence victim.

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