I have received a sobpoena to appear as a witness in a criminal trial, can I refuse to appear?

UPDATED: Nov 12, 2012

Advertiser Disclosure

It’s all about you. We want to help you make the right legal decisions.

We strive to help you make confident insurance and legal decisions. Finding trusted and reliable insurance quotes and legal advice should be easy. This doesn’t influence our content. Our opinions are our own.

UPDATED: Nov 12, 2012Fact Checked

Get Legal Help Today

Compare Quotes From Top Companies and Save

secured lock Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

I have received a sobpoena to appear as a witness in a criminal trial, can I refuse to appear?

What are the consequences?

Asked on November 12, 2012 under Criminal Law, Florida


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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

A subpoena compels the person served to comply with whatever is requested in it. Accordingly, if a person is compelled to appear and testify in court, they are under a legal obligation to do so. Failure to comply is a criminal matter for which there are penalties, this includes fines and/or jail time.

However if a witness feels that their testimony may implicate criminally in some way, then that person has protection. The Fifth Amendment gives a person the right to refuse to answer any questions or make any statements if doing so would result in establishing that they committed a crime. This right is also known as the “privilege against self-incrimination”.

So while a witness may be forced to take the stand, once they invoke their right to “plead the Fifth” their testimony cannot be compelled (i.e. a witness may not be forced to answer any incriminating questions).

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

Get Legal Help Today

Find the right lawyer for your legal issue.

secured lock Secured with SHA-256 Encryption