Frequently Asked Questions

Do I have to talk to an defense investigator or attorney?

    No. A witness or victim has the right to talk to or refuse to talk to anyone they choose until and unless they are subpoenaed to court where a judge orders the witness to do so. Further, the law now states that a private investigator must clearly identify themselves as a defense investigator. The best way to know to whom you are speaking is to insist on a business card or some other form of identification.

Will I have to testify at the preliminary hearing?

    Not necessarily. Under certain circumstances the law allows for certain peace officers to testify about what a witness or victim told them. The deputy district attorney handling the case will make the final decision as to whether or not your testimony will be needed at the preliminary hearing.

Can I recover for medical bills, lost wages, or property damage or loss?

    Yes, with some exceptions. Contact the Victim Witness Program for details and see the information contained in the page titled Crime Victims Assistance Center of this Web Site.

How long will a misdemeanor or felony prosecution take?

    Generally, a misdemeanor case can go from arraignment to sentencing in about 2-3 months. A felony case can take from 3-6 months on average.  This is just an estimate, many cases can take much longer.  The more serious the case the longer it may take.

What if I have other plans that conflict with my subpoena and the trial date?

    You should immediately contact the office that sent you the subpoena and inform them of the conflict.

Does the deputy district attorney represent the victim?

    No. The deputy district attorney represents the People of the State of California not the individual victim. The deputy district attorney must ensure that justice is done. Usually this means we are seeking the same outcome as the victim, but sometimes it is not.

When can I get my stolen property back?

    Usually 60 days after the defendant is sentenced. Sometimes, property can be photographed and returned to the victim prior to that time. You should call the police agency about getting property returned.

Can I attend court proceedings?

    Yes. All court proceedings in adult court are public, meaning that anyone can attend unless the court specifically excludes a witness or victim from the courtroom during testimony of other witnesses.

Can I be notified of when the defendant is released from prison and jail?

    Yes. The Victim Witness Program staff can help you with the process. Also see the page titled Crime Victims Assistance Program of this Web Site.

How much jail time will the defendant serve?

    This depends on each case. Misdemeanor cases generally carry up to either 6 months or 1 year in jail. Felonies can carry anywhere from 16 months in prison to life in prison. The exact amount is set forth by statute and determined by the crime charged.

What if I don't want to prosecute anymore?

    The ultimate decision of going forward with the case is up to the District Attorney. Although a victim's feelings will be considered, the District Attorney does not represent the victim, but represents society's interests.

Can I simply submit an affidavit, declaration or sworn statement instead of testifying?

    No. The U.S. and California Constitutions require that the Defendant be permitted to see the witnesses testify against him or her.

If I testify at the Preliminary Hearing do I also have to testify at a trial?

    Yes. The two proceedings are separate.

What do I do if the defendant tries to pressure me to drop the charges?

    Anyone who applies pressure to a victim or witness not to testify or proceed on charges may be guilty of a separate offense of dissuading a witness. Such conduct should immediately be reported to law enforcement. The District Attorney's Office has sole discretion to drop the charges.