What Rights Do Witnesses Have in Criminal Cases?

Joliet criminal attorney

You probably already know many of the rights a defendant in a criminal court case has. Things like the right to counsel, the right to remain silent, or the right to a prompt trial are guaranteed to everyone regardless of the charges brought against them. Witnesses in a criminal case also have certain rights and responsibilities.

Types of Subpoenas

If you have received a subpoena or witness summons, you are required to either provide information or be present for some type of legal proceeding. A “subpoena ad testificandum” is a witness summons that orders an individual to testify during legal proceedings. On the other hand, a “subpoena duces tecum” orders an organization or individual to bring physical evidence before the ordering authority. Often, this is subpoena is used for requesting copies of documents important to the case.

Can Witnesses Decline to Speak?

If you have received a subpoena to either testify or provide evidence, you are required to show up and/or provide the information needed. However, the Fifth Amendment gives you the right to refuse to answer questions which will incriminate you. This is colloquially called “pleading the Fifth.” The husband-wife privilege also gives witnesses the right to refuse to testify against their spouses. It is important to note that if you do choose to testify, you are required by law to tell the truth. Anyone answering questions in front of a grand jury, on the witness stand at trial, or during a deposition is under oath, so lying could be considered perjury.

Victim Witnesses Have Additional Rights

Witnesses who have been victims of crime have added rights. Victims have the right to be informed about the status of the investigation, any relevant court proceedings, and regarding the release or detention of the alleged offender. Unlike other witnesses who are only allowed in certain parts of a trial, victims are welcome at all public court proceedings related to the crime.

Witnesses Can and Should Have an Attorney

If you are or will be a witness in a criminal case, it is smart to have your own attorney. A criminal defense attorney can help you avoid incriminating testimony and understand which questions you do not have to answer. If you need a criminal defense lawyer in Joliet , Grundy County, or Will County, Illinois, contact the Law Offices of Jack L. Zaremba, P.C. for a free consultation. Call (815) 740-4025 to speak with a member of our team today.