criminal case

Rights and Obligations You Have When Called as a Witness

Everyone has rights and obligations, including defendants in a criminal case. Witnesses also have rights and obligations, and you need to be aware of them if you are called to provide testimony to a specific case.

When you are called to testify, you have certain rights that you can use for various reasons. For example, you have the right to not talk about the case at all under certain circumstances. As for your obligations, you are required to tell nothing but the truth.

That said, if you have been recently called to testify, you may be wondering whether you have to testify at all and what your rights are. In this article, we will shed light on the matter and go over the rights you have and what is expected of you.

1. Subpoena

In many cases, when you are asked to witness a particular trial, you are not obligated to do so. However, if you have been subpoenaed, you will not have a choice. 

Under a subpoena, you are obligated to show up to the trial and provide information about the case. There is no refusal here. However, you still have some rights you can evoke, such as the fifth amendment. Under this amendment, you have the right to remain silent. This may be necessary, especially if you believe that the information they are asking you to provide can end up incriminating you.

2. Perjury

When you are testifying, you are expected to tell the truth. You will have to cite the oath, “I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” Perjury happens when you lie under this oath, but it is not the same as lying. Perjury is a more serious offense, and it can lead to certain sentences, such as serving jail time. That said, silence cannot be considered perjury, meaning that you have the right to remain silent rather than lying under oath. 

3. Victim-witness

Not all witnesses have the right to attend court proceedings. However, only those that have directly been the victim of the crime can. If you are a victim-witness, you have the right to attend all the cases about the crime that affected you. You also have the right to case-related information, such as the status of the criminal’s detention and the stage of the investigation. In short, you have the right to be kept up-to-date with all relevant information pertaining to the case in which you have been the victim.


There are many other rights and obligations you need to know about as a witness. These rights are important because they will help you avoid trouble and possibly even incriminate yourself.

That said, if you need help fully understanding what is expected of you when testifying in any court, you have the right to legal counseling. Hiring an attorney will help you know your rights and obligations, what you can and cannot do, and how to speak in a way that does not incriminate yourself. 

The Fernandez Firm is a law firm with expertise in all matters related to criminal law. If you are looking for a criminal lawyer in Boston that will help you succeed as a witness, contact us today!