After being pardoned, can one be forced to testify in civil and criminal cases with no protection against self-incrimination?

My example is how Trump has pardoned former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio; does Arpaio's protection against self-incrimination disappear if he accepts the pardon for his conviction of a federal crime?

Can Arpaio be compelled to testify in cases brought against him, such as federal and state cases that concern his past actions as sheriff?

I.e., such as civil or criminal cases concerning Arpaio's department's past treatment of prisoners, instances of racial profiling and immigration-related cases?

Can Arpaio be compelled to testify against co-defendants in the same case(s) he was being prosecuted for that were nullified by the pardon?

Is there a difference between between civil and criminal cases as to what he can be compelled to do? And a difference between state and federal cases?

Can Arpaio decline the pardon in order to protect himself from being forced to testify?

And, can Trump preemptively pardon Arpaio, as the pardon states for any other offenses... that might arise, or be charged, in connection...?

  • Very interesting and pertinent question, because the answer has implications for the possible pardoning of White House and campaign associates. As an extension, can a pardoned person be compelled to testify before Congressional committees or to the FBI?
    – BobE
    Aug 26, 2017 at 16:31
  • Burdick v. U.S. seems to be relevant. Burdick took the Fifth, was granted a pardon and then was ordered to testify, but he said that he wished to refuse the pardon and keep his right against self-incrimination. The Supreme Court ruled that he could do so. This tends to imply, although it does not seem to say so directly, that if he had accepted the pardon, he could have been compelled to testify. Aug 26, 2017 at 17:52
  • I don't believe the subject of a pardon can accept or reject it. The pardon just is.
    – phoog
    Aug 26, 2017 at 21:02
  • @phoog: Burdick cited U.S. v. Wilson in which the Supreme Court ruled quite explicitly that a pardon can be rejected. "A pardon is a deed, to the validity of which delivery is essential, and delivery is not complete without acceptance. It may then be rejected by the person to whom it is tendered, and if it be rejected, we have discovered no power in a court to force it on him." Aug 26, 2017 at 22:33

1 Answer 1


This analysis by UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh concludes that the answer is yes.

A person may refuse to testify, even when subpoenaed, on the grounds that the testimony may expose him to criminal liability. But if the prospect of criminal liability disappears — whether because he has been granted adequate immunity by prosecutors, or because he has accepted a presidential pardon — then the privilege against self-incrimination also disappears.

Of course, Arpaio could still claim (plausibly, in my opinion) that his testimony would incriminate him as to other crimes with which he has not been charged / convicted / pardoned. (Unless the pardon was so broad as to cover all related federal crimes of which he might have been guilty; I cannot find the exact text of the pardon.) He could also claim that his testimony would incriminate him as to crimes under state law; the President cannot pardon those.

  • 1
    Of course, you can't refuse to testify if you would prejudice yourself in a civil wrong unless the act is also criminal.
    – Dale M
    Aug 26, 2017 at 22:16
  • FYI, I linked the text of the pardon. Aug 27, 2017 at 14:43
  • So you may still be liable and must testify in a civil lawsuit concerning the same deed? E.g. I killed somebody, get pardoned, but I still have to testify in the civil trial in which the widow seeks compensation and likely pay her a million dollar? "Your honor, I choose the chair." Nov 23, 2020 at 15:51

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