Can a criminal defendant refuse to give evidence in a discovery review?

California, United States of America

The following excerpt is from Avant v. The Superior Court of Santa Clara Cty., 79 Cal.App.4th 876, 94 Cal.Rptr.2d 505 (Cal. App. 2000):

The rationale for applying the abuse of discretion standard to discovery reviews was explained in People v. Coleman (1975) 13 Cal.3d 867, 884-885: "The defendant may well be required to make incriminating admissions if he is to have a meaningful chance of avoiding the loss through judicial process of a substantial amount of property. Some courts have been sympathetic to such a situation and have stayed the civil proceedings until disposition of the related criminal prosecution. [Citations.] Other courts have refused to go beyond allowing civil defendants to refuse to answer particular questions propounded in the course of discovery by expressly invoking their privilege against self-incrimination. [Citation.] [] Whatever their response to requests for accommodation of the conflicting constitutional rights of a defendant in concurrent civil and criminal proceedings, courts have consistently refrained from recognizing any constitutional need for such accommodation. Rather, the alleviation of tension between constitutional rights has been treated as within the province of a court's discretion in seeking to assure the sound administration of justice. 'There may be cases where the requirement that a criminal defendant participate in a civil action, at peril of being denied some portion of his worldly goods, violates concepts of elementary fairness in view of the defendant's position in an inter-related criminal prosecution. On the other hand, the fact that a man is indicted cannot give him a blank check to block all civil litigation on the same or related underlying subject matter. Justice is meted out in both civil and criminal litigation. The overall interest of the courts that justice be done may very well require that the compensation and remedy due a civil plaintiff should not be delayed (and possibly denied). The court, in its sound discretion, must assess and balance the nature and substantiality of the injustices claimed on either side.' [Citation.]" (Italics in original.)

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