Can a witness refuse to testify?

A subpoena will be issued directing a witness to appear in court on a specific day and time for the purpose of testifying. If a witness refuses to appear after the subpoena is delivered, the prosecutor will ask that a warrant (called “an attachment”) be issued for the witness's arrest and confinement in jail until the witness testifies.


Willful failure to obey a lawful order of a court, such as a subpoena, is an act of contempt for which the witness may be punished by the court. After all of that, a witness will still have to testify. A witness must testify truthfully. False testimony as to important facts while under oath in an official proceeding (such as a trial) is a very serious felony offense.

Show All Answers

1. What happens when a law enforcement agency files a case with the District Attorneys Office?
2. What happens once a case is indicted?
3. What is a plea bargain and how does the process work to resolve a case?
4. How often are criminal cases disposed of through the plea bargain agreements?
5. How does as a victim fit into the prosecution of a criminal case?
6. How can charges be dropped in a criminal case?
7. Can a witness refuse to testify?
8. What if a defense attorney or private investigator contacts a witness about a case?
9. How long will a witness have to be at the courthouse?
10. When a case goes to trial, who determines if the defendant is guilty or innocent?
11. The defendant has been found guilty, now what?
12. Once the defendant's punishment had been decided, is that the end of the case?
13. Are all cases argued before the appellate court?
14. If the defendant’s conviction is affirmed, may he seek other relief?
15. Do most defendants convicted in a trial appeal their conviction?