Victim and Witness Rights: Do I Have to Testify in Court?

The criminal justice system works best when people share information with law enforcement. If you are a victim or witness to a crime, police and prosecutors need your help to catch offenders and hold them accountable. Unfortunately, the judicial process can drag out, taking a toll on those involved. The Law Offices of Katie Walsh will be your voice: walking you through the court process and working with the district attorney’s office to safeguard your rights. 

Some victims prefer to forget about what happened rather than undergo a stressful interrogation or scrutiny on the witness stand. Others are worried about missing work or enduring financial hardship during a lengthy legal battle. Testifying can be especially traumatic for victims of crimes like rape, molestation or domestic violence, while victims of gang-related crimes may fear retaliation if they testify.    

Unfortunately, even if you are not comfortable coming forward, the court can compel you to cooperate. When you are unsure of your rights as a witness or a victim, attorney Katie Walsh can help. As a former prosecutor, she is familiar with the Orange County criminal justice process and will work with the district attorney and other parties on your behalf. 


What Is a “Material Witness”?


A “material witness” is a witness with important evidence about the case. The prosecutor (or defense attorney) can issue a subpoena ordering this type of critical witness to appear in court, even when they do not wish to comply. If you are a material witness and choose to disobey a subpoena, a warrant may be issued for your arrest. If a judge is worried that you will not appear as instructed, they can require you to post a bond to secure your return to court. In unique situations, a judge can even send you to jail if they believe there is a risk you will not return to testify. (Authority for this is found in California Penal Code Section 1332.)


Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence & Minors


A witness that refuses to testify can be held in contempt and jailed, but the law says that victims of sexual assault or domestic violence cannot be placed in jail for refusing to testify. These victims may be fined for each day that they refuse to testify, however.

When a minor under the age of 18 refuses to testify, the court is required to consult with the probation department as to the most appropriate sanction.


Place Your Trust in an Award-Winning OC Domestic Violence Lawyer
Domestic violence takes a physical, emotional and spiritual toll on victims, and they shouldn’t have to face the legal system alone. With over 10 years’ experience as a prosecutor, Katie Walsh is a compassionate advisor who will protect your legal rights and advocate for you in the midst of crisis. Don’t wait to call. Dial 714.619.9355 or submit a confidential inquiry to request your free legal consultation now.