What does it mean to plead the fifth? 1 Answers as of July 08, 2011

What does it mean to plead the fifth? What would the fifth amendment have to do with a victim who has been subpoenaed but does not want to testify? And what does it mean to be personally served?

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Cynthia Henley, Lawyer
Cynthia Henley, Lawyer | Cynthia Henley
Personally served means that you receive a subpoena when someone hands it to you - not by mail which is the most common way of service. The reason that someone would have you personally served is that if you do not show up for court, they can have you attached - which means picked up and brought to court & possibly placed under a witness bond until you testify. A complainant may take the fifth if they told a lie to the police or prosecutors before about a criminal charge so they could be prosecuted for something like false police report or otherwise when they take the stand and under oath tell the truth. For example, if a complainant tells police that her boyfriend hit her first with his fist in her face when the truth is she hit him first and he slapped at her & hit her face in an effort to get her off of him (acted in self defense) - this would cause the bf to be charged with assault family violence. If she is subpoenaed to court, she takes an oath to tell the truth. If she tells the truth under oath (to avoid a felony perjury charge), then the truth would subject her to prosecution for a false police report SO, she asserts her right to remain silent under the 5th amendment. It does NOT mean that the complainant just doesn't want to cooperate or testify - she can be forced to testify by the judge. If she takes the 5th, the State can then ask the judge to grant her immunity from prosecution which would mean she MUST testify even if that testimony conflicts with what she told police BUT she cannot be prosecuted for originally lying. (If she lies under oath, she can still be prosecuted for felony perjury.)
Answer Applies to: Texas
Replied: 7/8/2011
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