do u have to [testify if subpoenaed]?

if u are subpoena to court to testify as a witness for the prosecution can you legally not testify because of your beliefs?

Talk to a lawyer.

TPTB do not allow legal and medical advice to be given out here.

There are no religious exceptions to the requirement to testify under subpoena, if that’s what you’re asking. If you have a religious objection to swearing oaths, then you can make an affirmation instead.

You can’t just say no. If you refuse to testify, the judge will probably put you in jail for contempt.
What “beliefs” would prevent someone from testifying in court? If it’s about swearing to tell the truth, that’s not really an issue (you can affirm instead).

As an aside, this message board’s users encourage and appreciate things like proper spelling, grammar, and capitalization. A more descriptive thread title is also required by the board rules. Otherwise, welcome to the Dope.

OK, I am assuming this is a general question and not a specific question regarding a case you are currently involved in. If this is not the case, please see a lawyer for specific advice for your jurisdiction.

In general yes if subpoenaed one must testify. There are only a few exceptions. Many jurisdictions offer protection for very specific cases. The best known is protection from having to testify against oneself (the 5th amendment in the US). In many states journalists, spouses, clergy, and lawyers are also offered some protection from being forced to testify. These exceptions tend to be narrowly tailored and not general protections. IE clergy may have an exception for things revealed at confession. But if a priest were to see a man rob a bank, he would still have to testify about that.

I am not aware any religious based exception, in any US state.

thanks pat for your answer but don’t take this question personal. this question is just a question and i wanted to know how others would respond to my question!:eek:

u are so smart and no it does not pertain to me at all just a question?

Just out of curiosity, how did you find this forum?


Questions related to specific personal medical and legal questions are discouraged in GQ, especially when the OP is using the forum as a substitute for consulting a professional. However, more general legal and medical questions are permitted. Since the question in the OP is general, it fits within forum rules.

keioni74, as others have said, you will get a better response to your questions on this messageboard if you use capitalization and correct grammar.

Good answer. The only thing I can think to add at the moment is that an assertion of the 5th Amendment privilege against self-incrimination can be overcome by a grant of immunity, which sometimes happens in cases where the State really needs the testimony. Cases involving organized crime are one example of when this may happen.

You will note that now-a-days people can easily get around this by letting their feeling known to the prosecutor.

A bad witness is a lot worse than one who won’t co-operate.

A witness can tell the truth and blanket it with “I don’t understand” or “To best of my present knowledge” or “I guess but I’m not sure,” or other such statements that aren’t perjury but make the testimony of the person worthless.


Lawyer) Did you see the defendant
Witness) I think, I probably did, my eyes aren’ t what they use to be so I can’t be really sure.

If you make it clear to a prosecutor that you aren’t going to be a good witness, they’ll not be likely to use you. Of course you have to do this in a non-threating or non-specific way, so as not to be accused of “obstruction of justice”

It’s not really that easy. A guy decides to get cute on the stand, you ask for and often get permission to treat him as hostile, which means you can use leading questions. It’s not ideal, but it gives the prosecution some means of obtaining useful testimony from a recalcitrant witness.

Another method–many times, witnesses like that are also defendants in other cases. They can be offered a plea deal that is conditioned upon them cooperating and testifying truthfully, so if they get cute, they’ll get hammered in their own case. Doesn’t always work, but it gives the prosecution some leverage.

Does immunity extend to a civil trial? My thinking is it still may not be good for the witness if they are given immunity to admitting to a crime if they open themselves up to all sorts of civil lawsuits. E.g. “Yeah, we totally defrauded George!” Then George thinks great! He has an admission he was defrauded, off to court he goes.

I don’t think so. I’m not aware of any privilege against exposing oneself to civil liability, but I have not researched the issue.

On the flip side, I think you can use the 5th in civil matters if there is a risk your civil testimony could be used in a criminal matter.

True. Happened in a case I tried earlier this month. However, at least in domestic relations cases in my state, the Court is allowed to draw an adverse inference.

I may find myself in a situation where I’ll be subpoenaed as a witness in a trial 1,500 miles away. Would I be forced to appear and testify in person if my travel expenses were not covered, and no arrangements for videoconferencing were made?

Yeah, I seem to recall having to use it once in a case where buyer and seller of real property were fighting over the sale contract. At one point, there was a fire at the property and the buyer accused my client of insurance fraud in connection with the fire. I had to put the 5th into some written discovery responses. I recall reading that you cannot plead the 5th in a civil matter if there is no risk of criminal prosecution (i.e., all relevant criminal statutes of limitation have expired, grant of criminal immunity, etc.).

In California, a witness can demand witness fees and mileage, generally, and CA subpoenas don’t apply to out of state residents.

In federal court, my memory is that in civil actions an adverse inference can be drawn from the exercise of a privilege, but in California state matters, no such inference can be drawn. See Cal. Evid. Code section 913.

To the OP: I don’t know what you mean by “your beliefs” – whether that’s religious, or otherwise, so I don’t know whether there is a legal excuse for refusing to testify. All I can tell you is that if a person under subpoena refuses to testify, there are usually consequences to that refusal. What those consequences are will depend in large part on the case and the judge.