If an alleged victim doesn’t want to pursue or testify, can the state force them to?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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If an alleged victim doesn’t want to pursue or testify, can the state force them to?

The alleged victim in a home invasion case doesn’t want to pursue the case nor does this person want to testify. The case was dismissed by a judge 13 months after the date of alleged incident due to the fact alleged victim and

all witness for the prosecution could not even be subpoenaed. The judge would not even allow a 30 continueance. The prosecution then refilled the charges 2 days later. The alleged victim has repeatedly made it known that they do not want to pursue. The alleged victim has ongoing criminal cases

himself and has been told by the prosecution that they will slam him on his pending cases if he won’t testify. Is any of this legal or ethical?

Asked on February 21, 2018 under Criminal Law, Illinois


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

1) Prosecutors have discretion on whether to pursue someone and, if so, how hard to pursue them (e.g. what charges to press; what penalties to seek). You can see this when the prosecutor offers to drop charges or allow a favorable plea if someone cooperates as a witness. So yes, the procesutor can threaten to go after someone to the full extent of the law if they won't cooperate.
2) The prosecutor could also subpoena them to testify, and they could be jailed for not complying. The *only* times you can legally refuse to testify (and you must do this on the witness stand--i.e. show up and do it in court) is that you can refuse to testify if your testimony would incriminate you of a crime (i.e. you would "take the Fifth") or if you refuse to testify against a spouse (the "spousal privilege").

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.

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