Legal Question in Criminal Law in California

If a minor agreed to testify against a child molester can the district attorney force her to testify if she has changed her mind?

Asked on 3/20/10, 9:47 am

1 Answer from Attorneys

Brian McGinity McGinity Law Office

Well, the term of "forcing her to testify" is what I am struggling with in your question. first the District Attorney can't force her to testify. However, the DA can certainly make her show up in court. They can make it extremely hard to avoid testifying and they can also make it so there are some rotten consequences for her not to testify. The District Attorney can subpoena her as a witness in the case and she must show up or she will be in contempt of court. The district attorney can call her has a witness. The defense will probably object to her being called as a witness and there will be an argument regarding the issue upon which the Judge will decide. Further depending on her age, and other facts relating to the case and the situation, the court may not allow her to testify. Some counties have local rules regarding the age of a minor that is a witness in the case. However, those rules can generally be over-come if a an attorney is well prepared. Any witness can refuse to testify however, that is when consequences come into play. The court can also appoint an attorney for the minor in order that her interests be represented with regards to her ability and her understanding of the situation and what it means to testify. So it really is not a black and white question. But if the DA is bound and determined to have a shot at getting her to testify they can make it extremely uncomfortable and difficult. Generally in my experience the courts do their best to protect a minor. They will error on the side of the minor in most cases. If the Judge decides the possible testimony is crucial to the case, the Judge may clear the court room and have the minor testify in a closed court situation. The Judge can also order a meeting in chambers with both counsel present to get an offer or proof as to the testimony the minor is expected to give. They can also meet with the minor and make sure they understand the process of what they are doing and how the process works in relationship to their testimony. There are many different variables regarding a minor's testimony and it is impossible to go through each one. I suggest you contact an attorney and who deals with these situations in your area. Get a consultation with that attorney and give them the facts and get a legal opinion as to the specifics of your situation. In this type of forum it is impossible to give you any legal advice. The information I have put forth is general information and should not be relied upon as legal advice. There is also no client relationship created in this type of forum so there is no attorney client privilege. You need specific advice regarding your county and your situation. An attorney for an initial consultation will not be very expensive and the information you will receive will be extremely helpful. Good luck.

Brian McGinity

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Answered on 3/25/10, 3:25 pm

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