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What will happen to me if I refuse to testify against my boyfriend when he goes to trial next week for domestic violence.

Grand Rapids, MI |

He has been in jail for nearly 5 months now. They have charged him with 3 felonies . domestic 3rd , phone tampering, and witness interfering now for calling me from jail. I didn't show up for his prelim the first 2 times because several people told me it would get thrown out but all they did was postpone it and they said there was a warrent out for me. I showed up the third time and i tried to talk to the prosecutor. The prosecutor and the detective i tried to talk to the day after the incident have both been very rude, threatning and intimidating to me. when I took the stand at the prelim the prosecutor was very awful to me. She twisted my words around and I was very upset. I am not going to go through that again. What will happen to me if I say Im not going to testify.

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Attorney answers 3


As a criminal defense attorney in GR who handles domestic violence cases, typically I am giving advice on defense strategies. Your question, however, leads me in another direction. First, you can go to jail if you refuse to abide by the subpoena. Also, if you lie, the prosecutor can charge you with perjury (and it sounds like they may in your case). A statute (MCL 768.27c) allows the prosecutor to put the officer on the stand to testify to what you told them at the scene if you change your story in court. This is not good for you because it helps the prosecutor charge you with perjury.

Aside from that, based on what you have described, I want to add the following:
Please Note: Because this is one of the most asked questions, this is a standard answer and is general in nature:

In most jurisdictions (but not all) in a Domestic Violence situation, the police generally must make an arrest if signs of violence and/or injury are present. The victim does not generally have a say in whether or not the aggressor gets arrested. The prosecuting attorney (D.A.) will decide if charges will be pressed or dropped and the victim, again, does not control this. The victim is not the one pressing charges and therefore cannot drop the charges.

Keep in mind that without the proper counseling and help, a person who physically assaults a loved-one or other household member, generally will repeat this behavior, oftentimes increasing in violence, up to and including death to the victim. This will generally occur even though the aggressor says, "I'm sorry, I love you, and it'll never happen again!"

It is not usually a good idea to attempt to interfere with the prosecution because you do not want the aggressor to be arrested, go to jail, or have a record. This type of behavior is called "enabling," and it allows the aggressor to continue the cycle mentioned above.

Hopefully this has helped explain a bit. Again, this is a very common question you have asked and therefore this is my standard answer. Good Luck!

The comments listed here do not create an attorney-client relationship. The comments are for informational purposes only and are not to be considered legal advice. This attorney is only licensed in Michigan and does not give legal advice in any other state. All comments are to be considered conversational information and you should not rely on these comments as legal advice or in place of retaining an attorney of our own. The comments here are based solely on what you have provided and therefore are general in nature and with more specific facts or details a different answer or outcome could result. The legal system is not a perfect science and this attorney does not guarantee any outcome.


I agree with Attorney Edward Sternisha.

Edward Jacob Sternisha

Edward Jacob Sternisha


Thank you!


If you fail to show up the prosecutor can secure a warrant for your arrest, and you might be charged with contempt of court, for which you can be punished. Moreover, if you were to hide out so you could not be found, because you have already given testimony which was subject to cross-examination by the defense, upon your absence the prosecutor could use your past testimony as substantive evidence in the case, possibly leading to a conviction anyway.

If you show up and declare you do not want to testify, the judge might order you to testify anyway. If you continued to refuse, the judge would allow the prosecutor to have a witness read into evidence your old testimony. Also, there is a possibility that you could be cited for contempt of court, a crime. However, if you assert your Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination, that might lead to a ruling that you do not have to testify, and save you from a contempt of court charge, but they could still use your old testimony against the defendant.

If you want to help the boyfriend, you probably should show up, and give testimony. It is hard to see how new testimony would hurt the boyfriend any more than the old testimony already did. However, new testimony might give you the opportunity to explain how officials twisted your words, how they used threats against you, etc., which in some cases might help the boyfriend with a jury.

I point out that by the third domestic violence charge, many victims might conclude that this is enough, that the last two arrests did not change the boyfriend's actions, and that the boyfriend is not going to change. In that case the victim might choose to proceed on with her life and possibly a new boyfriend, until such time as the old boyfriend demonstrates a great change in his character and behavior. Good luck.

Contact me at 248-399-6930 for a free consultation. You and I do not have an attorney-client relationship formed by our communications on this website. Advice given by me on this website is general advice based on partial information. You should not rely on any advice given without first hiring a lawyer in the area where the case is pending, and providing that lawyer with full information.

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