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Will My Case Be Dropped if A Witness Refuses to Testify?

Many Houston criminal cases revolve around eyewitness testimony. Without this testimony, a prosecutor might be left with very little evidence to use to convict you.

Some witnesses refuse to testify. For example, your girlfriend might refuse to testify about a domestic dispute, or a witness could be in the country illegally and be afraid to go into court. Other witnesses simply disappear, and nobody knows how to find them.

A common question is whether your criminal charges will be dismissed if the witness doesn’t show up. The answer is “it depends.” Sometimes, a state’s case falls completely apart because a witness is unavailable, but in other situations a prosecutor charges ahead and you will need a Houston criminal defense lawyer by your side.

What Other Evidence Does the Prosecutor Have?

The prosecution might have more than enough evidence in its possession to go ahead with the case against you. For example, the state might use:

  • Other eyewitnesses. Not all witnesses need to testify to secure a conviction. Often, all it takes is one solid witness and a jury will believe you are guilty.
  • Physical evidence. Evidence like your fingerprints at a crime scene or hair/blood samples on the victim’s body is very incriminating.
  • Surveillance video. The prosecution can use video to show you committing a crime, provided it is reasonably clear. For example, surveillance video might show you robbing a convenience store or breaking into someone’s house.
  • 9-1-1 calls. The state uses 9-1-1 calls all the time in domestic violence cases. The victim refuses to testify, but the state can introduce the 9-1-1 call, where the victim claims she has been attacked by her husband or boyfriend.
  • Your own statements. You might have made key admissions in an interrogation after an arrest. This is just one more reason not to talk with the police.

Every prosecutor must constantly re-evaluate whether they have the evidence needed to secure a conviction. If the remaining evidence is weak, she might drop charges.

Prosecutors Can Subpoena Witnesses

The state can secure a witness’ attendance by serving them a subpoena. If a witness refuses to show up, the judge can have them arrested and hauled into court. Nonetheless, not all prosecutors rely on subpoenas.

A hostile witness could harm the prosecution’s case more than it helps. They might even lie on the stand, which could undermine the prosecution.

Also, some witnesses can’t be found, so they can’t receive the subpoena in the first place. Some witnesses who fear for their lives will skip town and not come back.

We Can Highlight Missing Witnesses

As part of your defense, our team might highlight that an important witness is missing. At a minimum, we can emphasize the gaps in the state’s case. For example, a closed-circuit TV might have recorded you breaking into a building, but no video shows what you did inside. The video, standing alone, might not prove burglary beyond a reasonable doubt.

For immediate help with a criminal matter, contact Tad Nelson today. We can talk more in a confidential consultation.