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Do Victims of Domestic Violence Have to Testify?


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In the state of California, victims of domestic violence can refuse to testify against their abusers. However, this does not mean that there are no consequences for victims, who after reconciliation or reconsideration, choose to withhold their testimony to keep their accused batterers from facing criminal charges and jail time.

For a domestic violence defense attorney,
call 805-477-0070 now
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Prior to 2009 and the enactment of Marsy’s Law, the California courts had the authority to punish victims of domestic violence with jail terms and community service for refusing to testify. Today, however, due to the implementation of Marsy’s Law, uncooperative victims are subject only to fines associated with charges of contempt of court, so long as they appear at trial in accordance with the requirements of their subpoenas.

The issue with many domestic abuse cases is that many of the parties involved reconcile, after the damages have been done and the legal process has begun to take its course. Victims often reconsider their actions, once they realize that their spouses or domestic partners will be facing criminal charges and that their emotional and financial well-being will be at stake.

Victims of domestic violence may live in a co-dependent relationship with their significant others. Many couples involved in violent relationships rely heavily upon each other to fulfill their physical, emotional and financial needs. It is not illegal to choose such a lifestyle; the misfortune is that many lives and pocketbooks wind up being affected by such choices.

Of course, not all occurrences of domestic violence are the same. Some battered victims really do want to escape their abusers. However, they may be intimidated or uncertain about being made to provide testimony before the courts with their abusers present.

Victims of domestic violence are given a great deal more latitude when it comes to choosing or refusing to provide testimony against their accused abuser. In paragraph 5 of California’s Victims Bill of Rights 2009: Marsy’s Law, it is provided that victims of domestic abuse are entitled:

  • To refuse an interview, deposition or discovery request by the defendant, the defendant’s attorney or any other person acting on the defendant’s behalf.
  • To set certain conditions by which any interview, deposition or discovery proceeding must be conducted

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Pre-trial discovery proceedings, however, are not the same as testifying before the courts. And, while abused spouses or partners can refuse to participate in pre-trial discovery, it is unlawful for them to refuse to participate in official court proceedings – even if their participation is notably nothing more than making the effort to arrive on time to formally refuse to provide testimony.

The California judicial system has attempted to address the matter of domestic violence in a number of manners, which have included punishments for the victims themselves. However, the issue again is one that comes down to lifestyle choices and interpersonal dependence.

Regardless of an abused spouse’s choice to refuse to testify, it is still imperative that they seek the advice of a legal representative, in order to be fully aware of the potential consequences that they may face as a result. It is imperative to mention here that victims of domestic violence cannot seek legal advice from the attorneys who are representing their accused abusers. This crosses an ethical line that could lead to accusations of malpractice due to a conflict of interest.

Victims of domestic violence are entitled to refuse to testify against their alleged abusers, but there is the chance that they may face monetary consequences for doing so, and even greater penalties if they should choose to ignore their summons to the courts altogether. If you or a loved one is embroiled in a domestic violence proceeding, contact an attorney. It is essential to know your rights and make solid, well-informed decisions in matters such as these.

For a domestic violence defense attorney,
call 805-477-0070 now
Receive a free case evaluation

Strongest Defense provide legal representation to individuals arrested on charges of domestic violence in Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley, Oxnard, Santa Paula, Fillmore, Port Hueneme, Moorpark and Santa Barbara, California. No attorney or law firm can make any promises or guarantee an outcome for your criminal case. The contents presented on this site are for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Visiting this website does not establish an attorney/client relationship.