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Can a domestic violence victim be forced to testify in court?

On Behalf of | Aug 25, 2021 | Domestic Violence |

Sadly, domestic violence is a problem that isn’t going away. In California, a victim may end up deciding they no longer want to testify against their abuser. However, it’s fair to wonder whether they can be forced to testify in the case, regardless.

What if a victim refuses to testify in a domestic violence case?

Sometimes, a domestic violence victim will rethink testifying against their abuser. It might be due to anything ranging from reconciling with an abusive partner to fear. However, whatever the case, when this happens, it doesn’t automatically mean that the criminal case against the perpetrator is over. The victim doesn’t determine whether or not charges are pressed, as that is up to the prosecutor.

A victim of domestic violence who refuses to testify against their abuser can be found in contempt of court as a result. However, before this occurs, the court may order the individual to get counseling. Everything said during a counseling session remains privileged, meaning it cannot be used in the case against the abuser. The court will not arrest a victim or hold them in confinement even if they won’t testify.

Factors in domestic violence cases with a non-compliant victim

If the prosecutor chooses to proceed with the criminal case against a domestic violence abuser without the victim’s testimony, challenges may arise. They include the following:

  • Whether other evidence exists. This can include photos of the victim’s injuries, medical records, doctors and other medical professionals and police officers who can testify.
  • Whether the perpetrator has prior convictions. Any prior convictions for domestic violence are admissible in proving the case.
  • Defendant asserting their Fifth Amendment rights. The defendant can choose not to testify due to self-incrimination. This can present a challenge in the case.

Even without the victim’s testimony, someone charged with domestic violence can still be prosecuted and ultimately found guilty.