If I just got a subpoena 3 months an incident, since I’m under the age of 18 do I have the right to refuse to testify?

Also, what if the person you are facing is your family member and you don’t want to testify against them? Is there any way for my lawyer to get me out of this?

Asked on July 5, 2014 under Criminal Law, Iowa


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

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

As a general rule, if a person is supenoaed to court they must appear and testify if called to the witness stand. They do not have an automatice right to refuse. That having been said, there are some excepetions to this rule for those having what is known as "privildge"; in other words they cannot be legally compelled to give testimony. For example if the witness is a priest ("priest-penitant priviledge"), if (in some cases) the witness is the defendant's spouse ("spousal privilege") or if the person called as a witness may have to give evidence against themself ("priviledge against self-incrimination"). Additionally, a witness who is deemd to be "incompetent" due to mental disability as caused by age, illness, etc. may not be able to testify (it is up to the judge to decide). However, as to age in particular, this a very difficult threshold to meet. The fact is that most courts will allow a young child to take the stand.

Whether or not there is another way to keep you from testifying will be for your attorney to decide. Consulting with them at this point is your best cousre of action.

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