What can I do to avoid testifying?

My 14 y/o niece had sex with a 19 y/o male. Her parents have pressed charges, 4th degree sexual offense. I have been subpoened because I was behind some revealing IM’s between the defendant and my “niece”. What can I do to either not testify or not answer the questions. Can’t I plead the 5th or something?

Asked on June 30, 2009 under Criminal Law, Maryland


M.S., Member, Connecticut Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Although I do not practice law in the State of Maryland, here are my initial impressions.  First, you should be aware that the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides (among other things) protection against self-incrimination.  Therefore, if your testimony would potentially expose you to criminal liability, then you may be able to seek the protection of the fifth amendment.  If, however, your potential testimony does not expose you to criminal liability, then the fifth amendment would theoretically not apply.  Regardless of the application of the fifth amendment in this situation, this is a serious matter that you obviously need to retain competent legal counsel to advise you on.  Depending on the unique circumstances of this particular matter, an attorney may be able to identify different strategies (in addition to or instead of "pleading the fifth) to preclude you from having to testify; or, your attorney may advise you that your failure to testify could potentially expose you to liability.  Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that you proceed forward on the advice of competent legal counsel that you have retained to represent your interests. 

B. B., Member, New Jersey Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

There's a lot more to this story, obviously, than this outline of the facts.  I'm not at all sure, but it's possible that the embarrassing details might make you guilty of some offense, and if so, you might be able to assert a Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate yourself.  But I would not do that without first telling all those details to a lawyer of your own, for advice you can rely on.  One place to find an attorney is our website, http://attorneypages.com


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