Is it Possible to Stop Someone from Testifying Against Me? Volume II
This article addresses specific privileges that exist in Maryland’s evidence code that allow the holder to keep others from divulging confidential matters in open court. These rules do not allow one to keep a witness from walking into a courtroom, nor do they allow a method to prevent a witness from answering all questions posed. These rules most certainly do not permit someone to threaten, or coerce, or in any way seek to limit a witness from appearing in court. Maryland law provides, only, certain privileges that may be invoked to keep others from giving specific testimony or answering specific questions. Examples are:
- Attorney-client privilege
- Patient-therapist privilege
- Accountant-client privilege
- Clergy person privilege
- News media privilege
The specifics of these privileges are matters of substantive law, and outside the scope of this article. As with all rules, there are exceptions. Moreover, they must be properly and timely invoked, or the protections provided may be waived. Again, the privileges do not allow the holder from keeping the listed person from testifying in total but may allow a method to prevent questions, and answers, about confidential conversations, had with that individual. The specific methodology involved is to invoke a privilege, individually, or through an instruction from your lawyer, in response to a specific question. The applicability of the privilege is then judge in response to that question only. The same process must be invoked with respect to each question that arguably call for an answer containing privileged material.
Perhaps the only way to keep a person from giving testimony is to prove that person has been convicted of perjury. If so, they may not testify at all.
The line between criminal conduct and the exercise of valid evidentiary rules should not be one easily blurred, but clarity and specificity are vital to understanding the rules. Maryland Law punishes harshly any conduct construed as harmful to another or as a threat of harming another with the intent to entice that person to testify falsely or not testify at all, or to avoid compulsory process, mandating their presence at trial. The offense is a serious one, carrying 5 years in prison, or potentially 20 years in certain cases. This article is not about any such conduct.
This Article was updated by Eric Kirk on 11/17/20.
The rules of evidence can be complex. I extend a no-cost, no-obligation case analysis and personal, confidential conference and strategy session to all prospective clients. If you have been accused of a crime, it is vital that you act quickly to safeguard your freedom. Contact me today. 410 591 2835.