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Important Things For Domestic Violence Victims To Know

At The Nieves Law Firm, we represent men and women who have been accused of committing acts of Domestic Violence. Oftentimes, during these heated situations emotions are intense, and can cloud the judgement of the parties involved in the dispute. It is important that those who are considered victims of domestic violence understand the rights they have when they find themselves unwilling to testify against their spouse or partner.

While we do not advise victims of domestic violence (we refer calls from DV victims to other attorneys), there are important things for individuals in this situation to know.


In a domestic violence complaint, the alleged victim is also called the complaining witness. Often, a complaining witness will find that he/she no longer wants to press charges against their partner, but fear that refusing to testify will land them in legal trouble. If you are subpoenaed to court, you are required to appear, however, if you refuse to testify you will not be punished with jail time for your refusal.


In any case, if you are called to testify in court, you have a legal obligation to be present during the scheduled hearing. As mentioned in the previous point, while you cannot be incarcerated for refusing to testify—you can get in trouble should you refuse to show up after receiving a subpoena.


You cannot be incarcerated for refusing to testify as a complaining witness. We will get calls from victims no longer want to pursue charges. If a witness finds that he/she genuinely does not want to testify against their partner, they cannot be held criminally liable. However, there may be other consequences such as fines or community service

California Code of Civil Procedure (CCP) 1219 (b) provides:

(b) Notwithstanding any other law, no court may imprison or otherwise confine or place in custody the victim of a sexual assault or domestic violence crime for contempt when the contempt consists of refusing to testify concerning that sexual assault or domestic violence crime. In the state of California, a victim has the right to be free from an incarceratory punishment in cases of Domestic Violence. This does not mean that there will be no consequences if held in contempt it means that a judge will not put a domestic violence victim in jail for refusing to answer questions.

At The Nieves Law Firm, we are skilled with navigating the tense, emotional and murky waters of domestic violence cases. Please feel free to give our office a call for an initial 30-minute phone consultation. Get the information you are seeking by calling today.

Author Bio

Jo-Anna Nieves is the Founder and Managing Attorney of The Nieves Law Firm, an Oakland criminal defense law firm she created in 2012. With more than 11 years of experience in criminal defense, she has zealously represented clients in a wide range of legal matters, including DUIs, domestic violence, expungement, federal crimes, juvenile law, motions to vacate, sex crimes, violent crimes, and other criminal charges.

Jo-Anna received her Juris Doctor from the Florida State University College of Law and is a member of the State Bar of California. She has received numerous accolades for her work, including being named a Super Lawyer Rising Star the past 8 years, the #12 Fastest Growing Law Firm in the U.S. by Law Firm 500 in 2019, and one of the fastest growing companies in the U.S. by Inc 5000 in 2023.

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