Chicago, IL asked in Criminal Law for Illinois

Q: Do you absolutely have to testify as a witness if you get subpoenaed?

I read that if you do get subpoenaed that it is against law to not go and testify. But is there anyway even if I go that I HAVE to answer there questions. And if I’m able could I write a letter to states attorney and judge about how I feel the defendant would benefit better from serving jail time and get other letters for the defendant to show his character or what would better help him in the long run? Instead just sending him to jail.

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1 Lawyer Answer
Jennifer Snyder
Jennifer Snyder
  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Chicago, IL
  • Licensed in Illinois

A: If you were personally served with a subpoena you must appear. Personal service means someone handed you(or someone in your household) the subpoena and you signed for it. Sending a subpoena through the mail is not personal service.

If you were personally served you must appear in court. As to whether you can be forced to testify. If your answers would incriminate you, you may assert your 5th Amendment rights and refuse to answer the questions. You may also ask the court to appoint an attorney to advise you on this issue.

You are free to write a letter to the State's Attorney's Office expressing your wishes for the outcome of the case, however, that does not eliminate the requirement to appear in court if subpoena'd. The State's Attorney isn't bound by your wishes and may proceed in the prosecution regardless of your opinions on what you wish the outcome to be.

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