The testimony of victims and eyewitnesses can be pivotal in a New Jersey criminal case. But sometimes, victims choose not to testify. What does it mean for your case if a victim refuses to testify? Below, the defense team at William Proetta Criminal Law explains the rules regarding victim and witness testimony in the New Jersey court system.
Are Victims Required to Testify in Court?
In some cases, crime victims may be required to testify in court. Not all criminal cases rely on victim or witness testimony, but many do. If a victim or witness receives a subpoena for a deposition or trial, it is a court order requiring them to appear and testify. Those who defy court orders by refusing to testify may be held in contempt of court and face penalties such as steep fines and possible jail time.
However, there are exceptions for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. These victims may not be jailed for refusal to testify, though they may still face civil contempt charges for defying court orders.
Reasons Why a Person Might Refuse to Testify
There are many reasons someone might not want to testify in a criminal case. Many victims fear doing so because of explicit or perceived threats. While the New Jersey court system is sensitive to these fears, being afraid is not sufficient grounds for defying a court order to testify.
However, there are certain reasons why the court may grant exceptions for those who refuse to testify, such as:
- A person’s right to avoid making self-incriminating statements
- Spousal privilege, which protects spouses from testifying against one another in certain circumstances
- Professional privilege, which protects speech between priests and penitents, lawyers and clients, doctors and patients, and reporters and sources
- Victims or witnesses who do not remember relevant case facts
- Victims or witnesses who cannot be present due to death or infirmity
Reasons Why a Prosecutor May Proceed With a Case Anyway
In some criminal cases, the prosecutor may drop the charges if a key witness or victim refuses to testify. But depending on the strength of available evidence, prosecutors may choose to proceed anyway. For instance, a New Jersey prosecutor may allow a case to go forward after a refusal to testify because:
- Other reliable witnesses can testify about the incident.
- There is a recorded 911 call that can be made available to the court.
- There is further evidence that can support the prosecution’s case.
- The witness who refuses to testify has already made relevant statements on the record.
Contact an Experienced New Jersey Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you have been accused of, arrested for, or charged with a crime in New Jersey, you need a criminal defense lawyer on your side right away. Consult William Proetta Criminal Law today. Our relentless team can analyze your case and develop an intelligent defense strategy that aims for the best possible outcome in your case. Contact us today to speak with an experienced criminal defense lawyer for free.