If you are a victim of domestic violence but do not wish to press charges, can the prosecutors make you take the stand?

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If you are a victim of domestic violence but do not wish to press charges, can the prosecutors make you take the stand?

I was involved in a domestic violence case with my ex-boyfriend. I no longer would like to press charges. They have asked me to testify but I do not want to testify. Could I plead the 5th?

Asked on July 14, 2011 under Criminal Law, California

Answers:

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

You have several issues here. First of all, whether or not to prosecute a case (i.e.drop charges) is a decision that rests with the prosecutor and not with the victim. Therefore a case may be prosecuted over a victim's objection.  So while the states case would be stronger with your testimony, if there is other evidence to support the charge the prosecutor may still decide to go forward with the case.

Secondly with respect to testifying, if you are subpoenaed you must appear in court. If you don't take the stand you can be held in contempt of violating the court order (that is what a subpoena is - an order to appear).  If you take the stand, you cannot "plead the 5th" unless your answer would incriminate you in the crime. If you fail to answer questions you can be held in contempt of court for that as well.


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