Frequently Asked Questions

How do I contact the Deputy District Attorney who is handling my case?

The most effective form of communication with a deputy district attorney is a letter. To find out which deputy is handling the case you are interested in, call 245-6300 and identify the defendant name and/or case number. The individual taking your call should be able to provide the name of a deputy district attorney for you to contact. If your matter is pressing, again call 245-6300 and you will be connected with a deputy district attorney or you can leave a message. Attorneys are directed to return phone calls within 48 hours.

What does the District Attorney Do?

   

How does the Criminal Justice System Work?

How Does Criminal Justice System Work

Do I have to talk to a 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 3-6 months. A felony case can take from 6 months to 1 year on average. 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?

A subpoena is a court order that you must comply with, to discuss this you should immediately contact each party 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 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. You can also sign up with Vine, which is the nation's most reliable and confidential source for custody status and criminal information. 

How much jail time will the defendant serve?

This depends on each case.  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.

What does it mean to testify as a Witness?

Being a victim or witness to a crime is seldom a pleasant experience. However, much of the frustration associated with being a witness is not understanding what to expect. The process of justice takes time. Patience and commitment are essential.

Witnesses are called to testify about what they saw, heard, or did which may be relevant to the charges against the defendant. The party calling a witness to the witness stand asks questions of the witness first. Next, the opposing attorney has the right to "cross-examine" the witness. Witnesses are often excluded from the court room when other witnesses are testifying. This is to ensure that the testimony or memory of one witness does not influence the testimony of another.

What are the things to remember when testifying in court?

  • Above all, be truthful. Don't exaggerate or shade your testimony. Tell the facts, simply and concisely.
  • Be attentive. Listen carefully to the questions. If you do not understand a question, ask that it be repeated or explained.
  • Answer only the question asked. Do not try to say everything at once or volunteer information that is not requested.
  • Explain the answer, if necessary. If a question cannot be answered truthfully and fully with a "yes" or "no" answer, it is acceptable to answer the question completely so that the jury is not misled by a simple "yes" or "no."
  • Do not guess. Give definite answers whenever possible. If the answer to a question is not known, do not be afraid to say so. Do not stop to figure out whether the answer will help or hurt either the prosecution or the defense.
  • Be prepared. Do not try to memorize what will be said; try to recall relevant facts.
  • If asked, "Have you talked to anyone about the case" - do not forget conversations with the District Attorney's Office, defense attorney, staff from Victim/Witness or other community agencies, investigators, or others.
  • When an attorney objects to a question, do not answer the question until the judge rules on the objection and requires an answer to the question. If the judge agrees with the ground for an objection, the objection will be "sustained". When the judge does not believe the objection has merit, the objection will be "overruled." If confused, ask the judge for direction.
  • Remain calm and courteous. Do not become angry, as it may diminish the impact of the testimony.
  • Speak clearly and loudly. Respond to the person asking the questions, but make sure you speak clearly enough to be heard by the jury. Give all answers verbally and not by gestures or head movements.
  • Dress neatly and always show respect for the court. For example wearing hats or chewing gum is generally not acceptable in court.
  • Be yourself. The judge, jurors, and attorneys are human also and appreciate sincerity.

How do I request a Speaker?

Speaker Requests

Where do I find information about a Subpoena?

Witness Subpoena Information

How do I file a complaint about a business?

Civil Prosecution

How do I submit a bad check?

Bad Check Enforcement Program Details