How do I not testify without risking being charged with contempt of court?

At the beginning of this month, my husband and I got into a domestic quarrel which resulted in his placing an unloaded gun to my neck. This is the 1st incident of any type of domestic abuse, so understandably, I was quite upset and took legal action to press charges. My husband and I have been together a total of 21 years (10 married) and though at the time I felt it was warranted, I have since tried to rescind the charges to no avail. My husband is now in anger management counseling.

Asked on October 27, 2011 under Criminal Law, Pennsylvania


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

As you are now aware, whether or not charges are filed is not up to you. The DA's office will review the case and determine if it wants to pursue the case. The fact that you don't want to testify may or may not have any effect. Prosecutors know that more often then not spouse's are reluctant to involve themselves in these type cases. In many instances the abusing spouse tries to intimidate the abused spouse into not cooperating with the state. It will all come down to just how strong the case against your husband is (medical examination records, witness statements and any other relevant evidence).

With respect to your not testifying, you really have no choice. If you must appearin court if you are subpoenaed. And once on the stand you must testify (unless doing so would somehow incriminate you in the incident). As you seem to know, failure to appear and/or testify will put you in contempt of court. You could face fines and even jail time for this. There is a right of spousal privilege (i.e. the right to not have to testify against a spouse). However, it is waived in cases of domestic violence.

At this point your efforts are best spent in finding an a skilled and experienced criminal law attorney to advise you of your rights.

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