Since testimony given in a civil case can be used as evidence in subsequent criminal cases, then forcing a witness to admit to a crime in a civil case would be tantamount to forcing him to be a witness against himself in his later criminal trial.
Originally Posted by Skapare
"The government insists, broadly, that the constitutional privilege against self-incrimination does not apply in any civil proceeding. The contrary must be accepted as settled. The privilege is not ordinarily dependent upon the nature of the proceeding in which the testimony is sought or is to be used. It applies alike to civil and criminal proceedings, wherever the answer might tend to subject to criminal responsibility him who gives it." McCarthy v. Arndstein, 266 U.S. 34, 69 L.Ed. 158, 45 S.Ct. 16 (1924)
That is not the way the right works. If you admit to committing a crime while testifying, that admission can be used against you in a subsequent criminal trial. Therefore, if you don't want that to happen, then you should invoke your right against self-incrimination and refuse to answer the question -- even if the judge compels you to answer.
Is "compelling to answer" by a judge something that is overriding this right, or is it a statement that the right does not apply? When the judge compells the witness to answer and supposedly the witness is protected from using those answers in any subsequent proceeding, just how far can this go? Can a state district judge grant such a protection even from federal prosecution? Will it also block investigations that would otherwise not have happened because no one knew this crime even took place or where to begin investigation? What if this refers back to some major unsolved infamous case where the witness would have to end up saying "I was not there because I was busy raping and murdering those 3 children back then" (something like that would really get a lot of attention and would be hard for any judge to make go away).
What if the person asked to answer is not even a party to the case (but is claimed to be a witness by one of the parties)
"The privilege protects a mere witness as fully as it does one who is also a party defendant." McCarthy
Adultery is a crime in many states, and thus, a witness cannot be forced to admit to it. However, assuming the question is not criminal, if the judge deems the answer to be relevant, then the question must be answered even if the answer would embarrass the witness.
, and the questions are believed by this witness to simply be personal or private (for example "Yeah, I cheated on my wife") even though not criminal, and outside the scope of the case. How can this be handled in a civil case?