IfI have not been subpoenaed, doI have to testify in court?

UPDATED: Oct 4, 2010

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IfI have not been subpoenaed, doI have to testify in court?

Asked on October 4, 2010 under Criminal Law, Michigan


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

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

No you do not have to testify. If it is mandatory that you do, a subpoena will be issued for your appearance. On the other hand, if a subpoena is issued it compels the person served to comply with whatever is requested in the subpoena. Therefore if a person is compelled to appear and testify in court or other legal proceeding, they are under a legal obligation to do so. Failure to comply with a subpoena is a criminal matter for which there are penalties, including fines and jail time.

However if a witness feels that their testimony may implicate them in some way in the matter at hand or even another matter there may be protection for that witness. The Fifth Amendment gives individuals the right to refuse to answer any questions or make any statements if doing so would result in establishing that the person committed a crime. This right is also known as the “privilege against self-incrimination”.  

Note:  A witness may be subpoenaed and forced to take the stand. Yet once they invoke their right to “plead the Fifth” their testimony cannot be compelled. That is, a witness may not be forced to answer any incriminating questions.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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