What Happens If a Victim Refuses to Testify - Are Charges Dropped?

Will A Prosecutor Dismiss A Case If A Victim Refuses to Testify?

Empty witness stand in courtroom.A victim in a criminal case may choose not to testify for a variety of reasons. – but what does this mean for your case? Does that mean the prosecutor will be forced to dismiss your case and drop all the charges? The answer is maybe. What happens when a victim of a charged crime refuses to testify depends on a variety of factors, including the facts of the case; other evidence that supports the charges, the nature of the charges; the defendant’s criminal history; the strength and number of other witnesses to the crime; the victim’s availability and willingness to testify, and the prosecutor’s policy on proceeding without the victim,

In some cases, a witness who refuses to testify after being served with a subpoena could face contempt charges and be subjected to certain criminal penalties, including fines and even jail time. (A subpoena is a court order directing a witness to appear and give evidence in a court proceeding). When a victim refuses to testify, your case could be dismissed especially if the only evidence the prosecutor has is the victim’s statements. However, in some cases, a victim’s testimony may not be necessary therefore making it unlikely that the prosecutor will dismiss the case. The specific facts of your situation will dictate what happens. Continue reading to learn more, or contact the Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys at Stephen G. Rodriguez & Partners if you are facing criminal charges or are under criminal investigation.

Do Victims Have To Testify In Court?

There are several reasons why a victim may not want to testify against a defendant. Fear is a major reason and love is another, or perhaps a combination of both. Some victims who are asked to testify are either married to or in a relationship with the defendant and may have children with that person. If that person is convicted and sentenced to prison, the victim would fear retribution by that person and if that same person is deported, the victim could lose their means of support. But victims don’t have the last word on whether the prosecutor will pursue charges. That is completely up to the prosecutor.

Most prosecutors will not easily give up when a victim makes it clear that he or she is unwilling to testify against the defendant. This is very common in domestic violence and sexual assault cases. It may take a few attempts and some convincing by law enforcement to get the victim to come to court. However, if the victim is still uncooperative the prosecutor may ask the judge to issue a body attachment on the victim. A body attachment is a court order directing law enforcement to immediately arrest and bring the victim to court. The prosecutor must prove to the judge that the victim was properly served with a subpoena before the court issues the body attachment. Body attachments are used by criminal courts, but only as a last resort when a witness refuses to come to court after being properly notified to appear.

When Is a Victim’s Testimony Unnecessary?

Your case will not be dismissed simply because the victim refuses to testify. There are several circumstances in which a prosecutor will move forward with a case even if a victim is uncooperative and unwilling to come to court and testify. These circumstances include:

  • When the defendant confessed to the crime during a police interview;
  • When there are other witnesses available to testify as to what happened;
  • When there is a recorded 911 call made by the victim while the crime was occurring or immediately afterward describing the crime and/or the injury (if any) suffered by the victim;
  • When there is a paramedic or hospital report documenting victim statements and injuries sustained by the victim;
  • When there is an interview of the victim taken by police;
  • When the victim previously provided sworn testimony in documents or at a court hearing, such as a preliminary hearing, restraining order, deposition or a civil case.

In any of the above situations, the prosecution may determine that the victim’s testimony at a hearing/trial is not necessary to prove the prosecutor’s case beyond a reasonable doubt and, therefore, may proceed to trial with the case.

Attorney Stephen G. Rodriguez

Contact Stephen G. Rodriguez & Partners

Some Individuals who are under investigation or facing criminal charges, such as sexual assault and domestic violence, believe their cases will be dismissed because the victim(s) will not testify or go to court. WRONG! The prosecution may still pursue criminal charges making it critical that you seek the advice of an experienced criminal defense attorney to protect your rights and defend you.

To learn how our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys can assist you, contact Stephen G. Rodriguez & Partners today at (213) 481-6811.

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