Q: If a 17-year-old minor involved in a case as a witness, refuses to attend and testify in court, what charges would he/she be facing? Could they receive a fine, or even jail time? (Peters Township, PA)
A: The only circumstance in which a person can be legally obligated to appear in court and testify is if they were served with a Subpoena. As this person is a minor, his parents or guardians must be served. If the parent or guardian is served with the subpoena and do not want to bring their son to court, they should seek the advice of a lawyer as to whether they have legal grounds to not comply, such as the minor’s 5th Amendment rights or a real threat of retaliation or witness intimidation. If the parent or guardian has no such valid reason, then they can be held in contempt of court by the judge and the judge can issue an order or warrant and have them brought to court by sheriff or police.
Q: I worked at a company last year and had a brief flirting exchange (flirting only – we did not have sex) with one of the company’s salesmen. He resided in California but came to our headquarters in the mid-west only every couple of months. He told me he was divorced. I came to find out that he was not divorced and that his wife had seen some of our flirting texts on his phone. I then called it off. Over the last nine months, his wife has called my friends, family, and co-workers (sometimes in the middle of the night) telling them that I am a whore and home wrecker. I left the company and am now unemployed, but will be starting a new job soon. My fear is that once she finds out about my new job at a new company, she will begin harassing my new employer in an attempt to get me fired. She is very careful, however, to only use restricted phone numbers or throw away cell phone numbers when making these calls. Is what she is doing illegal? What can I do to protect myself here?
A: Her conduct may be harassment or stalking and subject her to criminal prosecution. You could consult with the local police or the DA. Keep all of the calls and records from the past as well as a journal of all of her unsolicited contact. The DA or police may advise you on how to activate a service with your phone company to trace calls. If that is not possible, the DA, or even your own attorney, through subpoena or court order, can obtain the phone records. Having the phone records will likely be essential to your case if charges are filed as most of the communications seems to be via telecommunications. The last time I was involved with this issue, I was defending someone in criminal court. The alleged victim’s phone calls to my client were essential to our defense. The cell phone company would not honor a subpoena from PA and I had to obtain a court order from the judge. The records were produced by the cell phone company.
Q: Can I be arrested for not responding to a subpoena that I have not received? I have recently received a phone call about an assault case that I witnessed. I have not received the subpoena yet. The case is over 200 miles away and I can’t afford the drive. So I’m stuck in a bind. Can I be arrest for not calling the prosecuting attorney back?
A: No, you can’t be arrested for not calling the DA back. You can only be arrested by not coming to court when you have received a subpoena. Wait could till you get a subpoena then contact the DA. You might want to call the DA back now and tell her or him your situation. Perhaps if you are a valuable witness they can compensate you for travel. Perhaps the case may be postponed, you never know unless you call.
Q. Asking me while intoxicated not at the initial incident. I was a witness to a case and the officers didn’t ask me a single thing and barely wanted my ID after the incident. I was the reason it started in the first place. But a week ago while I was under the influence they asked me what happened. I finally had the chance to tell them and they seemed to be twisting it around like it was the defendants fault. Then I get a call I’m being subpoenaed to court and was told again if I remembered what I had told them while under the influence. After telling them the same thing they are making me feel as though I lied about the incident. Another officer who dropped off the subpoena told me he can give me a lie detector test in court. I feel very uncomfortable and wonder if the cop car was recorded. Could they use it in court?
A. No, police cannot make you take a polygraph test. You do not have to submit to one.Polygraph tests are not admissible in court and the police probably won’t spend the resources. Electronically recording a witness without their knowledge is not legal, so they probably didn’t do that unless they had pre approval from the court to do so. The police often mention polygraph test to put pressure on people to confesss. You need to consult with an attorney and relay the entire story and follow the advice of counsel. Please be advised that if you change your story from the one given to police originally, you could possibly face criminal charges of False Reports to Law Enforcement.