How do I know if I am to appear as a witness?
You will be issued a subpoena, a legal document directing you to be present in Court with the time and place stated on the subpoena. You may receive your subpoena by mail or in person. After receipt of your subpoena, immediately contact the Victim/Witness Program office at 277-2229.
When I arrive at the Courthouse, where do I go?
Go directly to the Courtroom that is on your subpoena, unless otherwise informed by the State's Attorney Office.
What happens at the first appearance of the Defendant?
You will usually not be needed to appear at this stage of the criminal case unless notified by the State's Attorney. At this appearance, the Defendant is told what he is charged with and the possible penalties.
His ability to obtain an attorney is assessed and a public defender or volunteer may be appointed if he cannot afford a private attorney. Sometimes the Defendant pleads guilty at this time. If this occurs, you will not be needed to appear in Court at all. The Victim/Witness Program will send you a letter to inform you of the outcome of the case. If the Defendant pleads not guilty, the case will be set for trial and you will be notified when to appear.
Will I have to take time off from work?
Trials are almost always held during daytime working hours. However, be aware that if you have been subpoenaed, you must appear or risk being held in contempt of Court. Some employers make allowances for employees to appear as witnesses, often with no loss of pay. Your employer cannot legally discharge, punish, or threaten you for attending a criminal proceeding when you have been subpoenaed.
What should I do if the case is continued?
(Continued means -postponement of legal proceedings). Cases may be continued for a variety of reasons. One of the participants may be sick or out of town. The Defendant may ask for more time to find an attorney or to prepare his or her own defense. The Court may have to continue the case if several cases come up for trial at the same time, or if one of the attorneys is busy in another Courtroom. Sometimes, the State's Attorney may not learn of the continuance until the last minute; however, you will be given as much advance notice as possible.
What will happen to me in Court?
As a witness for the State, you may be questioned by the State's Attorney and then by the Defendant's attorney, who will cross-examine you (ask you additional questions). You may feel, during the questioning, that your testimony is under suspicion, or that your personal motives are doubted, but the process of cross-examination is not meant as a personal attack towards you. It is to ensure that all sides of the case are told, and to establish the truth.
The Judge is there to assist you if you do not understand a question and to see that you are treated respectfully. If you do not understand a question, do not be afraid to say so.
What happens if I change my mind and don't want to prosecute?
The whole community has a stake in prosecuting offenders. Once the charge is filed, the State's Attorney's Office has the ultimate discretion in whether to prosecute the case. Much costly work will go to waste if you are not cooperative.
What if the Defense Attorney contacts me about the case?
If the defense attorney contacts you to discuss the case, you should first realize that every attorney in any civil or criminal case has the right to interview ALL witnesses to an incident. The State's Attorney's Office suggests that you NOT refuse to discuss the incident. Call the State's Attorney's Office if you would feel more comfortable having a representative from their office with you during the interview. Also, contact the State's Attorney's Office BEFORE agreeing to give any written statements or tape-recorded interviews regarding the case.
What if I am threatened in connection with the case?
Anyone who seeks to force you into dropping the charges is obstructing justice and may be committing additional crimes. Immediately report any threats or bribe attempts to the police and inform the State's Attorney's Office.
How can I be reimbursed for losses incurred as a result of this crime?
A convicted Defendant may be ordered to pay restitution. Often, however, the Court does not know the exact amount to assign. Keep all receipts, estimates, or bills of damages or personal injury for the time when they will be needed at a Restitution hearing.
Can I receive compensation for injuries or losses suffered during the crime?
First check with your insurance company. Your policy may cover the expenses of your injuries. If you are not covered by insurance, you may be eligible for Crime Victim's Compensation. This law is designed to help reduce the financial burden often imposed on innocent persons who are seriously injured by violent crimes. Total compensation may not exceed $27,000 per incident. It does not apply to property damage.