Can a prosecutor make me testify against my common-law wife?

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Can a prosecutor make me testify against my common-law wife?

About 7 months ago my wife and I wound up in a fight; she was arrested and charged with family violence. At the time of her arrest, I said that I did not wish to press any charges. Since then the county prosecutor has contacted me to testify against her and I told her that I would not. Now the prosecutor has subpoenaed me to come to trial. The prosecutor is trying to force me to testify against my wife. My wife has a mental condition that makes it hard for her to understand some things. She really doesn’t belong in this situation. Can she force me? Is there any way out ? Can I just plea the 5th?

Asked on February 2, 2011 under Criminal Law, Texas

Answers:

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Once a subpoena is issued it compels the person served to comply with whatever is requested it. Accordingly since you have been served, you are under a legal obligationto testify at your wife's trial.  Failure to comply with a subpoena is a criminal matter for which there are penalties, including fines and jail time.  Additionally, a witness can only "plead the 5th" (i.e. invoke their “privilege against self-incrimination”) if their testimony would implicate them in some way in the crime.  So unless your testimony can get you personally in trouble, you have to testify 

Note:  Even if you could plead the 5th, as a witness you would still have to apper in court to do it.


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