Better Call Glew: Do I Have To Testify If Subpoenaed?
Jay Brockman

Better Call Glew: Do I Have To Testify If Subpoenaed?

Hi Mr. Glew,

I was subpoenaed to court to testify in my friend's case.  I don't want to go because I know I will have to say things that will hurt them in court.  What are my options?

 Unfortunately, you are caught between a rock and a hard place, as subpoenas are not suggestions; they are orders. If you were a witness to your friend's committing a crime, and you have received a subpoena from the prosecuting agency, you must comply.  A subpoena compels you to testify, regardless of whether or not you want to be involved.  Even if you are the victim of a crime, and you do not wish to testify at trial, if you have been subpoenaed, you still must comply. 

You cannot testify untruthfully, as doing so would be committing perjury. Further, any prosecutor worth his or her salt will ask questions that exhibit your bias towards your friends, and the lack of veracity in your testimony. Lying is never an option. Furthermore, you cannot remain silent or refuse to answer questions posed by the prosecutor. If you remain silent or refuse to answer questions, the Court can hold you in contempt, and jail you.

The only circumstance in which you may refuse to answer a question posed to you on the witness stand, is if you feel the answers might incriminate you. If that is the case, simply refuse to answer, and cite your Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.   Unfortunately for you, no privilege exists that would exempt you from testifying. Unless you are willing to fall on the sword for your friends, and remain silent on the stand, which may or may not help their case, you will have to testify against them.

One final thought: If your have concerns that your testimony could potentially be incriminating, seek the advice of counsel, as your number one priority, when in court, is yourself.  

Send questions to And remember, Better Call Glew!

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