If I have been court ordered or ‘soapena’ to testify in court as a victim, do I have to?

I am a victim in a domestic violence case by a family member. Will I have a warrant for my arrest if I don’t show up?

Asked on September 10, 2016 under Criminal Law, Florida


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

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

The fact is that a subpoena is a direct court order for a person's appearance at the time and place specified. If a subpoena is validly served but ignored, the prson that it was served on can be held in contempt. At that point,  a warrant for failure to appear can be issued for their arrest and they can face fines, jail or both. While some victims refuse to testify by "pleading the 5th" (i.e. their right against self-incrimination), they are not successful. This is because this right can't be invoked simply because the witness does not want to testify; it only applies if their testimony would cause them to incriminate themselves. And a witness who refuses to testify can also be held in contempt of court and arrested and fined/jailed. Additionally in domestic violence cases, some spouse's think that they can invoke "spousal privilege" (i.e. the right of one spouse not to have to give testimony against the other spouse). However, virtually all states have amended their spousal privilege statutes to make an exception for domestic violence victims. Bottom line, you must appear in court and testify if called upon to do so.

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