Can a Domestic Violence Victim Refuse to Testify in California?

Can a Domestic Violence Victim Refuse to Testify in California?

Yes, in California, a domestic violence victim has the right to refuse to testify.

According to California Civil Code Section 1219, victims are not obligated to testify, and they are exempt from contempt charges for refusing to do so.

However, there may be consequences such as minor fees or community service if the victim refuses a subpoena.

If you’re involved in a domestic violence case, seeking a knowledgeable domestic violence attorney is crucial for a successful outcome. Contact Mariya Melkonyan at mariya@melkonyanfirm.com or (424) 901-3131.

What You Need to Know If You’re Involved in a Domestic Violence Situation

If you find yourself involved in a domestic violence situation, there are important things to understand.

Firstly, it’s common for victims to want to drop charges and end the case, but it’s a misconception that they can do this on their own. The legal process doesn’t automatically disappear if a victim wishes to withdraw charges. 

Even without the victim’s cooperation, many domestic violence cases proceed to prosecution. This means that the legal system may take action, and the case could go to court, regardless of the victim’s desires — convictions can occur even if the victim chooses not to testify.

What Is Considered Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence includes actions that cause physical harm, injury, stalking, threats, or property damage.

In California, the most common charge for domestic violence involving injury to an intimate partner falls under California Penal Code Section 273.5. This is considered a felony, carrying serious consequences.

Other domestic violence charges, like child abuse, domestic battery, and elderly abuse, are known as “wobblers,” and can be treated as misdemeanors or felonies.

Convictions may result in up to four years in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Those convicted might also be required to complete a one-year batterer’s treatment program. 

Additionally, a victim can seek a restraining order for protection, emphasizing the gravity of domestic violence charges in California.

When Are Domestic Violence Defendants Arrested?

Domestic violence defendants can be arrested in various situations.

When a 911 call or accusation is made, victims might later want to drop charges, but California Penal Code section 836(d) allows the police to arrest without a warrant if there’s probable cause. This often leads to charges filed by the District Attorney’s office.

Factors influencing charges include:

  • The urgency of the 911 call
  • Evidence in police reports
  • Medical records
  • Witness statements
  • Prior accusations
  • Attempts to obtain restraining orders

Statements that may sound like confessions can impact charges, and even if a victim’s statements are later recanted, they may be considered at a preliminary hearing. If there’s no witness testimony, the District Attorney might rely on circumstantial evidence.

Domestic violence accusations typically lead to strict penalties, highlighting the importance of working with an experienced domestic violence attorney.

With 13 years of experience as a former Deputy District Attorney, Ms. Melkonyan can expertly help you win your domestic violence case. Schedule your no-obligation case review with Mariya Melkonyan today.

Can a Domestic Violence Victim Refuse to Testify?

According to California Civil Code Section 1219, domestic violence cases do not require victims to testify, and they’re exempt from contempt charges for refusal to testify.

Instead, the court may refer the victim to a domestic violence counselor before considering contempt charges. Minor fees or community service may be imposed if a victim refuses a subpoena.

I Have Been Served a Subpoena. Do I Have to Attend Court?

If you’ve been served a subpoena, you must show up in court on the specified date and time. 

Ignoring it can lead to serious consequences, including spending several days in jail before promising to appear at the next court date.

Trying to avoid being served can backfire, as investigators may persist and eventually serve you — even at your workplace. If you have a copy of the subpoena, it’s better to go to court.

Will the Case Be Dismissed If I Refuse to Testify?

Whether a case gets dismissed if you refuse to testify depends on various factors.

The 6th Amendment gives a defendant the right to confront witnesses presenting evidence against them. Usually, hearsay statements are not allowed unless the witness is testifying.

In many domestic violence cases, if the alleged victim doesn’t testify, there might be little or no evidence left for the prosecution.

However, there are exceptions, such as allowing a 911 call as an “excited utterance” if made during the altercation.

To understand what evidence remains if a victim refuses to testify, it’s best to consult with a domestic violence attorney who can guide you through this process. Schedule your no-obligation case review with Mariya Melkonyan today.

Can I Be Forced to Testify Against My Spouse?

Yes, you can be forced to testify against your spouse in domestic violence cases. 

The usual spousal privilege doesn’t apply in these situations, as stated in Evidence Code 972. Still, the court’s power to punish an uncooperative victim in a domestic violence case is limited in California.

According to California Code of Civil Procedure section 1219, the court’s options include fining the witness up to $1,000 and requiring them to consult with a domestic violence counselor.

Can I Go to Jail If I Refuse to Testify Against My Partner?

No, a judge cannot send an alleged domestic violence victim to jail for refusing to testify. 

There’s protection for alleged victims in domestic violence and sex cases, as outlined in California Code of Civil Procedure 1219. The most severe consequence for refusing to testify is a fine of $1,000. 

However, failing to testify is different from failing to appear after being properly served a subpoena, which may result in jail time.

Can I Take the 5th and Refuse to Testify If I Did Something Illegal That I Would Have to Testify About?

The 5th Amendment gives you the right to avoid testifying against yourself. If there’s a risk of saying something that could incriminate you when called to testify, you can use the 5th Amendment

This applies to situations like illegal drug use, starting a fight, or making false statements to the police. 

You can inform the judge by saying, “I refuse to answer because I would incriminate myself” or simply say, “I need to take the 5th.” After invoking the 5th, the District Attorney might offer an immunity agreement. 

However, even with the immunity agreement, the court has limited power to hold the witness in contempt for refusing to answer questions.

Will Child Protective Services (CPS) Take My Children If I Refuse to Cooperate with the Prosecution?

Child Protective Services (CPS) can get involved in domestic violence cases at home. However, taking away children usually happens only in serious and persistent domestic violence situations

It’s important to know that police or prosecutors suggesting that not cooperating will lead to CPS taking your children is illegal and considered witness intimidation. 

If you’re told to cooperate to keep your children, ask for details and report these conversations to your attorney for guidance.

It’s crucial to understand your rights and seek proper legal advice in such situations — contact Mariya Melkonyan at mariya@melkonyanfirm.com or (424) 901-3131 to book a no-obligation case review.

Can Someone Still Be Found Guilty If the Accuser Doesn’t Testify?

In California, the state, not the victim, brings charges in domestic violence cases. The victim’s wish to drop charges doesn’t have a big impact on the legal process.

If the victim refuses to testify and there are no other witnesses, charges might be reduced or dismissed.

However, California takes a firm stance on domestic violence, and the District Attorney may still pursue prosecution using circumstantial evidence. For instance, a 911 call tape can be used as evidence. 

Other FAQs About Domestic Violence and Victims Refusing to Testify in California

Finally, we’ll answer some questions you might still have about domestic violence and victims refusing to testify in California.

What Are the Penalties for a Domestic Violence Conviction in California?

Facing domestic violence charges or convictions in California can lead to serious consequences, including jail or prison time, fines, probation, and restraining orders.

Additionally, there can be significant personal repercussions, such as the loss of custody rights, harm to job or career prospects, and for non-citizens, deportation from the United States.

When My Partner Goes to Court, Will the Judge Issue a “No Contact” Restraining Order?

During the first court appearance in a domestic violence case, the judge may consider issuing a restraining order.

Normally, the judge follows the alleged victim’s preferences regarding this order. However, the judge can still impose a “no contact” order even if the alleged victim wants to continue the relationship. 

If a victim prefers a “no negative contact” order instead, it’s crucial to communicate this preference to both the defense attorney and prosecutor and be prepared to attend court.

Do I Have Any Rights as the Victim in the Case?

In California, as the alleged victim in a domestic violence case, you have rights under Marsy’s Law, also known as the Victim’s Bill of Rights. This law ensures that alleged victims have specific rights, including the right to:

  1. Speak to the prosecutor and judge to request lower bail or release on recognizance (release from jail without bail).
  2. Speak to the judge and prosecutor before decisions on restraining orders.
  3. Speak with the judge and prosecutor about sentencing or punishment.

These rights empower you to have a say in key decisions throughout the legal process, from bail to protective orders and sentencing.

Does the Lawyer Representing My Partner Represent Me Too?

The lawyer representing your partner is focused on their interests, not yours, and isn’t obligated to represent you. 

If you want to help get the case dropped or reduced, it’s crucial to meet with your partner’s attorney. However, there are limits to what your partner’s attorney can do for you. 

They can’t provide advice on legal matters like being served a subpoena or help you decide on the risk of contempt of court for refusing to testify.

If you need legal representation or advice, contact Mariya Melkonyan at mariya@melkonyanfirm.com or (424) 901-3131 today.

How Can I Fix an Incorrect Statement to the Police I Gave While Under the Influence?

If you were using alcohol or drugs when you made a police report and now realize your statement wasn’t accurate, here’s how you can address it:

  1. Let either your attorney or your partner’s attorney know about the influence of substances during the incident.
  2. Consider providing evidence of your substance use, such as:
    • Receipts from a bar.
    • Previous convictions related to alcohol or drugs.
    • A history of attending rehab or outpatient treatment.
    • Other witnesses familiar with your drug or drinking habits.
    • Past social media posts indicating a pattern of “partying.”

Sharing this information can help your attorney build a stronger case and address the impact of substance use on your statement to the police.

I Lied in the Police Report and I Want to Correct It. What Should I Do?

If you lied in the police report and want to correct it, don’t feel discouraged from coming forward with the truth.

Only the defendant and their defense attorney have access to all the “discovery” material. The defense attorney is in the best position to assess if your new statements can benefit the case. 

Be honest and work with your attorney to ensure your side of the story is accurately represented.

Am I Guilty of a Crime If I Lied to Police to Get My Husband or Boyfriend Arrested?

If you lied to the police to get your husband or boyfriend arrested, you may be guilty of a misdemeanor under California Penal Code 148.5, which deals with providing false statements to a police officer.

However, alleged victims attempting to correct a false statement are rarely prosecuted, even if the recanting story is not fully believed by the District Attorney.

Despite potential risks, you must consider the very real probability of severe consequences for your partner, such as jail time, probation terms, job loss, or deportation.

It’s important to approach the situation carefully. Contact Mariya Melkonyan today to get legal advice and help navigating the complexities of your specific case.

Get Advice or Representation from a Domestic Violence Attorney

In California, a domestic violence victim has the right to refuse to testify — but each case is different.

Have you been served a subpoena? Have you lied in your testimony? Do you wish to drop the charges? Were you involved in any illegal activities?

Several variables affect how you should go about your domestic violence case. An experienced domestic violence attorney can advise you on the best course of action for a positive outcome — whatever that looks like for you.

With 13 years of experience as a former Deputy District Attorney, Mariya Melkonyan will use her expertise to fight for you and ensure no stone is left unturned.  Schedule your no-obligation case review today

Frequently Asked Questions

During your free initial consultation, your attorney will discuss the facts of your case, getting a clear overview of your situation. Your attorney will then explain the process, letting you know what will be expected of you and the support and services they will offer.

Your attorney will then guide you on how to proceed and begin collecting potential witness details to support your case and evidence for preservation, proper representation, and preparation. Finally, we will explain our fees, take you through our retainer form, and answer any queries you have.

To give Mariya a clear view of your case, you must provide them with as many details and as much evidence about your case as possible. This may include documentation, videos, audio files, witness names, time logs on any information related to the case for review. The more details and evidence you can provide, the better case your attorney can build right from the start.

Some clients are concerned about revealing too much to a lawyer in an initial consultation, but your meetings with an attorney are confidential and protected by client/attorney privilege.

After your initial consultation, we’ll be able to determine a retainer fee and discuss payment options. In most cases, the retainer feee payments are divided into two parts; the first is typically payable upfront.

There are various options for paying your retainer fee, including cash, check, or card.

There is no one-size-fits-all cost for an attorney to defend your criminal case. The fee depends on the charges against you and the details of your specific case. As a rule, open misdemeanor cases tend to be charged at a lower fee than open felony cases. Post-conviction legal services, such as expungement of criminal records, are usually even less expensive.

The final fee depends on the complexity of your case. During your consultation, the attorney will discuss the fees with you. The more details you can give about your case, the more accurate expectations your attorney can set. Contact Mariya today for a no-obligation case review.

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      Frequently Asked Questions

      During your free initial consultation, your attorney will discuss the facts of your case, getting a clear overview of your situation. Your attorney will then explain the process, letting you know what will be expected of you and the support and services they will offer.

      Your attorney will then guide you on how to proceed and begin collecting potential witness details to support your case and evidence for preservation, proper representation, and preparation. Finally, we will explain our fees, take you through our retainer form, and answer any queries you have.

      To give Mariya a clear view of your case, you must provide them with as many details and as much evidence about your case as possible. This may include documentation, videos, audio files, witness names, time logs on any information related to the case for review. The more details and evidence you can provide, the better case your attorney can build right from the start.

      Some clients are concerned about revealing too much to a lawyer in an initial consultation, but your meetings with an attorney are confidential and protected by client/attorney privilege.

      After your initial consultation, we’ll be able to determine a retainer fee and discuss payment options. In most cases, the retainer feee payments are divided into two parts; the first is typically payable upfront.

      There are various options for paying your retainer fee, including cash, check, or card.

      There is no one-size-fits-all cost for an attorney to defend your criminal case. The fee depends on the charges against you and the details of your specific case. As a rule, open misdemeanor cases tend to be charged at a lower fee than open felony cases. Post-conviction legal services, such as expungement of criminal records, are usually even less expensive.

      The final fee depends on the complexity of your case. During your consultation, the attorney will discuss the fees with you. The more details you can give about your case, the more accurate expectations your attorney can set. Contact Mariya today for a no-obligation case review.