If I do not appear after being subpoenaed as a witness, can I be arrested or fined?

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If I do not appear after being subpoenaed as a witness, can I be arrested or fined?

My husband was charged with physically assaulting me 6 months ago. I asked the DA to drop charges and was told that it didn’t matter. Husband is pleading not guilty and his trial is set for next week. I live in FL and he is in NY, which is where trial is. I received a subpoena and don’t want to appear as a witness. If I don’t appear, can I be arrested or fined?

Asked on March 23, 2011 under Criminal Law, New York

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Once a subpoena is issued it compels the person served to comply with whatever is requested -whether or not you are out-of-state.  Therefore, since you have been served, you are under a legal obligation to testify at your husband's trial.  Ignoring a subpoena is a criminal offense for and there are penalties that can be imposed - this includes fines and jail time. 

Note: A witness can "plead the 5th" (i.e. invoke their “privilege against self-incrimination”) but only  if their testimony would implicate them in some way in the crime.  So unless your testimony can get you personally in trouble, you have to testify. 


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