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Can you plead the 5th, to all the questions, when you are a witness?

Leesburg, VA |

My brother and sister-in-law are getting divorced and fighting for custody of their son. My sister-in-law will most likely want me as a witness, but I don't want to be involved legally. Can I plead the 5th to all their question?

Attorney Answers 3


The 5th amendment is for the purpose of protecting a person from self-incrimination. If called as a witness you could only plead the fifth to questions that could directly or indirectly relate to your own personal criminal activity. You cannot plead the fifth to simply avoid answering personal or difficult questions.

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If you are subpoenaed to testify in a civil case, you are under a court order to cooperate. The 5th Amendment allows you to not have to give testimony which may subject you to criminal prosecution. So long as the questions asked of you do not seek answers that tend to incriminate you in some way, or lead to other information that may be incriminating, you are required to answer. If you refuse to answer the questions, you may be held in contempt and be jailed until you cooperate.

Good luck.

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I agree with the information provided by both colleagues. It is always difficult for family members to take sides and be pulled into family disputes. Family and friends are often put in the middle of domestic disputes and are forced to take time from work to appear in court and air the family secrets. However, I always tell my clients that "truth is its own defense." If you simply tell the truth and provide brief responses, when questioned, you will be satisfy your legal obligation if compelled to testify. In the absence of a subpoena, you are under no legal obligation to appear in court. You may wish to contact an attorney to obtain practical advice about how to respond to questions when on the witness stand. Best of luck~

This response is only intended for informational purposes and is not intended as legal advice or as a substitute for hiring an attorney in your state. Further, by sharing this information, it is in no way intended to establish an attorney client relationship with the reader.

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