If you are a witness to a crime, are you legally obligated to appear in court after you’ve given a statement to the police?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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If you are a witness to a crime, are you legally obligated to appear in court after you’ve given a statement to the police?

I witnessed a shooting and gave a police report at the time of shooting. Now, the case is about to go to court and I am in fear of restitution from the defendant.

Asked on May 29, 2018 under Criminal Law, South Carolina


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

If you are subpoenaed to appear--that is, receive an official legal document called a "subpoena"--you must appear in court and testify. You don't have to show up if they simply ask you without providing a subpoena (you can tell them you will not come to court) and certainly not if they don't even bother asking and just assume your presence, but a subpoena is enforceable legal process, so if you receive one, you have to honor it or else be subject to punishment (e.g. possible jail time).

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