Can a Witness Be Charged with a Crime?

If you were a witness to a crime being perpetrated, the police or the defendant’s lawyer may become privy to the fact. You may have to give testimony in a recorded deposition, in court or both. At this point, you may wonder: can a witness be charged with a crime in the process? An experienced Anderson criminal defense attorney will analyze the particulars in your case and give you a reliable answer.

For now, let us discuss the general situations where witnesses in a criminal case may end up facing criminal charges themselves. Here are some of the most common situations:

1. Ignoring the Subpoena to Appear in Court

The subpoena is an official summons to appear before court and give your testimony. If a judge granted this to either of the parties in the case, it means that they have valid reasons to believe that your testimony is important for the outcome of the trial.

Ignoring a subpoena is a criminal offense. The judge will note your absence and issue an order to the sheriff to bring you before the court. At this point a sheriff’s deputy will appear at your workplace or home and execute the order. Once you appear before the judge, you will be charged with contempt of court.

The penalties for this offense are severe:

  • Fine between $300 and $1,500
  • Up to 300 hours of community service
  • Up to 1 year in jail

2. Committing Perjury

Perjury is a very serious crime and, under South Carolina law, is defined as giving false, misleading or incomplete testimony under oath. This is a situation where many honest witnesses may get charged with a crime – because they forget to state a detail, which they may have given in a deposition.

This is something that could happen to anyone. Sometimes, a witness gives their deposition a few days after the date of the crime and then is summoned in court months later. For this reason, whenever you are not sure if you remember everything, say clearly “I do not remember” or “I am not sure.”

a witness is obliged to give a complete testimony

3. Failure to Answer

Sometimes, you may be called as a witness in a criminal case where the defendant is someone you know and like – a friend, a coworker, a family member (not a first-degree relative). In this situation, you may not wish to give testimony against them and contribute to their conviction.

However, as an Anderson criminal defense lawyer will advise you, once you take the oath in the witness stand, you must answer all questions asked by the prosecutor and defendant’s attorney.

Staying silent and refusing to cooperate when you are asked a question under oath is a crime and you may also be held in contempt of court.

4. Making Self-Incriminatory Statements

Last, but not least, it may be possible that part of your testimony will incriminate you. For example, you could be charged with being an accessory to the crime or an accessory after the fact.

If you know that you may have been connected in any way with the crime for which you were summoned as a witness, you should discuss your situation with a lawyer. You cannot refuse to testify or give false testimony. Also, the prosecutor will not stop analyzing the case just because it has reached the trial phase.

Your participation in or contribution to the crime may be uncovered. At this point, your failure to cooperate will be treated as an aggravating circumstance by the prosecution.

Talk to a Skilled Anderson Criminal Defense Lawyer If You Must Give Testimony!

Nobody wants to be involved in a criminal case, even as a witness. However, you cannot avoid a subpoena, because this is one of the most common situations when a witness will be charged with a crime.

The best decision is to contact an experienced Anderson criminal defense lawyer and tell them everything you know about the case – including your potential involvement.

As a new client, you benefit from a free case evaluation, so call us today: 864-777-4615!

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