Witness testimony is often an essential piece of evidence in assault cases. This is especially true when the witness is the victim of the alleged offense. A witness who refuses to testify in a Fort Bend County assault case can significantly impact the outcome.
Can A Witnessed Be Forced to Testify in My Fort Bend Assault Case?
For various reasons, witnesses sometimes decide that they do not wish to testify in assault cases. This most commonly occurs when the witness is the victim and wife or girlfriend of the defendant. However, the decision to testify is not entirely in the hands of the witness.
Texas has tools to make unwilling witnesses testify.
The primary method that the state uses to force uncooperating witnesses to testify is through subpoenas. A subpoena is a court order requiring an individual to appear in court for a specific purpose. Usually, the purpose is to testify.
Subpoenas are orders, not requests. If a witness fails to comply with a subpoena, the judge has the discretion to fine the witness up to $500 in a felony case and up to $100 in a misdemeanor case.
In addition, if the subpoenaed witness fails to appear, the judge can issue a writ of attachment, and the court will send a sheriff’s deputy to arrest the witness. The court can hold the witness in jail or on bond until the trial is over, regardless of whether they completed their testimony. The judge must order a writ of attachment at the request of either party.
Can You Contest a Subpoena in Fort Bend?
In general, you are legally required to comply with a subpoena in Fort Bend, Texas. However, there are limited circumstances where you can contest a subpoena, including:
- The testimony is incriminating. The fifth amendment of the U.S. Constitution gives you the right to avoid self-incrimination. Testimony is incriminating if it places you in legal jeopardy.
- The testimony is privileged. Examples of privileged testimony include communication with your attorney, therapist, or priest. In addition, testimony against your spouse is privileged.
- The witness was incompetent due to illness or age.
- The subpoena was too broad, vague, or not properly served.
If you are a subpoenaed witness in an assault case and believe that any of the above applies to your situation, you should reach out to a criminal defense attorney.
Will My Assault Case Be Dismissed If a Witness Refuses to Testify?
If a witness refuses to testify, it does not mean that your assault case will automatically get dropped. It is especially unlikely that the assault charges will get dismissed if the case is related to a domestic violence charge. The state, not a witness (even if it is the victim), decides whether or not to prosecute a case.
The state has the burden to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. In some assault cases, the state may be dependent on a witness’s testimony. Their refusal to cooperate may result in your charges being dropped. However, the state may be able to rely on evidence other than the witness’s trial testimony to prove its case. Examples of evidence include:
- Witness testimony already on the record. In many assault cases, there is a preliminary hearing during which the witness already testified. Under some circumstances, the court may allow the state to enter the witness’s past testimony into evidence.
- Other witnesses and physical evidence are available. The state can offer additional witnesses, such as police officers, or physical evidence, like medical records and video recordings.
- Out-of-court statements by the witness. In general, hearsay (out-of-court statements offered for the truth) is not admissible evidence. However, there are exceptions to this rule. One exception is excited utterances. Emergency 911 calls may fall into this category.
Is it a Crime to Persuade a Witness Not to Testify?
Any attempt to interfere with or prevent the testimony of a witness is considered to witness tampering under Texas law. Typically, witness tampering is the greater of a third-degree felony or the most serious offense charged in the criminal case. In Fort Bend, third-degree penalties are punishable by ten years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000.
Your Sugar Land Criminal Defense Attorney
If you or a loved one is facing assault charges, you should reach out to a qualified Sugar Land criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Adam Capetillo is a Fort Bend County native who will protect your rights and provide a skilled and aggressive defense. Call Capetillo Law Firm today for a free consultation.