What Happens If A Victim Refuses To Testify In A Criminal Case In Los Angeles?
It’s not uncommon that victims decide not to testify in criminal cases in LA. I’ve handled a lot of these type of matters. A lot of times it’s a domestic violence related offense and the girlfriend or the wife or significant other does not want to testify against their significant other because maybe they are the bread-winner and they don’t’ want to see them go to jail, they have kids, a job, a family. So, a lot of times they’ll have a change of heart in these criminal cases and they will not want to testify against the person.
Now, there are a number of different issues that spring from this problem. One, the prosecutors are obviously going to have to find the person and serve them with a subpoena if they want them to testify in a criminal case. If they can’t find them, if they can’t serve them and if they don’t show up, then that obviously creates a problem for the prosecutors and they would not usually be allowed to get any evidence in or any testimony in related to that particular witness. If they can serve them and they can get them into court, then a lot of people think, I’m just not going to testify. That’s probably not going to happen in a criminal case. You’ll probably be ordered to testify by the judge and if you don’t you can be held in contempt. You can get sanctions leveled against you.
There’re a number of different things that the judge can do, of course, at the prosecutor’s discretion in order to force you to testify – order you to testify in a criminal case. Other people try saying, I’m going to plead the Fifth Amendment, then they won’t be able to get me to testify, and the reality is you’re probably not going to be able to plead the Fifth Amendment. You can only plead the Fifth Amendment as a witness if you might incriminate yourself by something that you say. So, a lot of times people aren’t able to make that argument. They just don’t want to testify against the other person, so they try to claim the Fifth Amendment and the judge quickly is going to say, no you cannot plead the Fifth Amendment because you don’t have any criminal charges pending against you and you’re not likely to be charged with any criminal case. So, the Fifth Amendment is typically not going to work when it comes to trying to avoid testifying in a criminal case.
The last thing that happens is people will try to change their story, embellish things and not say what they originally told the police, and you can certainly do this. You have to be careful because if you lie about it you could be charged with perjury or some other crime. But if you do that, what will end up happening is the prosecutors will listen to what you say. And of course, you said something different and the prosecutors are going to come at you and they’re going to say to you, wait a minute didn’t you tell the police at this time, you told them a different statement. It doesn’t matter what you say. You can say yeah, I told them that or no, I didn’t tell them that or I told them that but I was lying. They’re not going to care. They’re then going to call the police officer that you told and say hey, you talked to the person right after the incident. They had a black eye for example and they told you that their husband hit them. So, once a jury sees that they’re going to realize that you’re just trying to help the defendant in the case and obviously, they’re going to be able to convict you based on your prior inconsistent statement that you made to the police.
So, this is a complicated issue when it comes to witnesses trying not to testify in a criminal case. They don’t mess around in these criminal cases – especially in serious cases where people have been harmed and they’re concerned that this defendant might do something again. The prosecutors are very tough in these types of cases and they’re going to definitely try to make an alleged victim testify in a criminal case, and obviously, you’re going to want to tell the truth because you’re not going to want to get yourself in trouble.
If you do think though that you might incriminate yourself, then obviously you want to contact an attorney. Explain to the attorney that you think you might incriminate yourself and then the attorney can give you an idea of whether or not that argument’s going to fly and whether it makes sense, and whether you actually could plead the Fifth as a victim in a criminal case.
For more information on Refusing To Testify In A Criminal Case, a free initial consultation is your best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (213) 374-3952 today.
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