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In California, some of the most challenging cases to prosecute successfully are domestic violence cases. These cases often have very little evidence, and what evidence is provided may be conflicting since the two parties involved tend to have opposing statements about what took place. As such, the prosecution depends on the testimony of victims to convict defendants accused of domestic violence. However, this places victims in a tough spot because many do not wish to testify against their abusers.
When a witness to a case refuses to testify or appear in court after receiving court orders, they may be found in contempt of court. The consequences an individual faces for contempt vary depending on whether they were the victim of domestic violence or a third party witness.
What Happens to Witnesses Who Refuse to Testify?
There are two main scenarios in which a witness may be found in contempt of court:
- The witness fails to appear in court after receiving a subpoena (a court order for a witness to appear in court)
- The witness refuses to testify in court
Witnesses found in contempt of court may face penalties, including jail time and/or a fine. California courts rely on their contempt power to ensure that individuals obey their orders, which helps keep the court system operating smoothly. A witness who refuses to testify is in direct contempt of court because their refusal takes place in front of a judge. The judge may punish the individual immediately. A witness found in direct contempt may face up to five days in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.
Additionally, witnesses who refuse to testify may be jailed until the court proceeding or trial finishes, unless they’re the victim in a domestic violence case. Witnesses may even face criminal charges and penalties for refusing to obey court orders.
How Does the Court Handle Domestic Violence Victims Who Don’t Testify?
It’s challenging for the courts to receive cooperation from survivors of domestic abuse. There are several reasons why a domestic violence victim may not wish to testify against their abuser:
- Fear for their safety and/or the safety of their children
- Desire to save the relationship
- Need to preserve financial stability
- Fear that no one will believe them
- Desire to avoid the hardship of reliving trauma
- Not having faith that their cooperation will lead to justice
Without participation from victims, it may be extremely difficult to gain a conviction. Domestic violence victims may be held in contempt of court; however, they may only receive a financial penalty and may not be sentenced to jail.
Will My Domestic Violence Case be Dismissed if the Victim Doesn’t Come Forward?
If you’ve been charged with a domestic violence crime in San Diego, whether the district attorney dismisses your charges depends mainly on how much evidence the prosecution has against you. Sometimes, the only available evidence is the victim’s testimony. Without it, the case may be dismissed.
If a defendant admits guilt, if there are other witnesses who may provide testimony, or if the victim previously provided testimony, the prosecution may decide there is enough evidence to proceed with your case regardless of the victim’s participation.
Is It Illegal to Persuade a Witness to Refuse to Testify Against You?
Yes. It’s a crime to try to prevent a witness from testifying in your case or someone else’s case. Under Penal Code 136.1, you may not knowingly prevent or dissuade a witness from:
- Reporting a crime
- Helping the arresting officers
- Helping prosecutors
- Attending or testifying at any judicial hearing
Dissuading a witness may be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. Talk to your criminal defense lawyer if you face possible charges for talking to your alleged victim about testifying in court.
At Dod Law, We Fight for Dismissed or Reduced Domestic Violence Charges
You don’t deserve to be tried in court with faulty or incomplete evidence. If you’re charged with domestic violence in San Diego, there may be several defenses available to you. Remember, without physical evidence or the participation of the victim, these cases tend to be difficult to prosecute. In many cases, it’s possible to have your charges dismissed, which will be instrumental in helping you move on from this dark moment.
When you seek qualified legal representation, there is hope that you can preserve your reputation and avoid penalties for a domestic violence conviction. Talk to Attorney Dod of Dod Law to learn what steps you should take after a false domestic violence accusation. Call 619-814-5110 or complete our contact form for a free consultation.