As a victim of domestic assault do I have to go to court?
Domestic abuse victim and court testimony
Recently on our legal forum we had a user ask, "If I am the victim of a domestic assault will I have to testify in court?"
If you have been the victim of a domestic assault this means you have been physically injured or threatened by someone in your family which can include a spouse, partner, ex-spouse or ex-partner. In most cases the victims of domestic abuse or assault are women, although this is not always the case.
Common types of domestic abuse
Although the accused will not be charged with "domestic violence" their offenses can be categorized as assault, sexual assault, uttering threats, intimidation, criminal harassment or any other charge which fits their crime. Domestic violence of any type is considered serious.
So what will happen if you have been the victim of domestic assault? Unfortunately, because you may be the only witness as well as the victim of the assault you may have to testify in court. Even though you may have pictures or other witness testimony, testifying on your own behalf is likely to strengthen your case.
When will I not have to testify for my domestic assault case?
There are times when your testimony in court may not be needed. For example, if your spouse is charged for the crime and pleads guilty there will not be a trial and you will not need to testify. If you have gone to the police and have made a complaint and they have filed charges, they will need your help.
The good news is that there are services to help you if you are required to testify in court. For example, you can ask the police department whether there is a Victim Services Coordinator or another equivalent person within the Department of Public Safety who can work with you and offer you support and information about the criminal justice process and what steps you will need to take to make sure your abuser is punished for their crimes.
What information will the court provide to me?
In general, the state has support for victims who are testifying at a trial. Information you should receive include information about your role as a witness, the court proceedings, assistance ensuring your safety prior to offering your testimony, status updates for the case, and referrals to other services within the community for victims of abuse.
Under some conditions, you may also be allowed to provide your testimony outside of the court room via a closed circuit TV or screens (if the court deems it appropriate for your case). This is more common when abused children must provide testimony, but adults may also be allowed to use this technology under very specific circumstances.
Notification to appear in court
If your ex partner or spouse has been charged with a crime, they have pled not guilty and are scheduled to appear in court the court will deliver a subpoena to you with information about when and where you will need to testify. Failure to appear in court may result in your arrest.
The greatest damage done by your refusal to testify is that your ex-spouse or partner may not be convicted and is likely to commit the same crime against you or another person in the future.
A judgment can be enforced but you will have to take the initiative and the proper legal steps.
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