Victim Witness FAQ
Q: Do I need to be present in Court?
A: Generally, you do not need to be present in the court unless you have received a subpoena. However, as a victim you have the right to be present if you wish.
Q. What can I expect in the courtroom?
A. The judge, the defendant, the defendant’s attorney, you the victim, witnesses and the Assistant District Attorney in the case will be present in the courtroom. When you are called to testify you will be sworn to tell the truth. The Assistant District Attorney will ask you what you know about the case. When questioning is complete, the defendant’s attorney will then ask you questions about the case. The judge will only want to hear the facts pertaining to this particular case. Usually, witnesses (including the crime victim) will be directed to leave the courtroom during the testimony of other witnesses.
Q: Can I drop the charges against the offender?
A: No. It is important to understand that the whole community has a stake in the prosecuting of wrongdoers. It is the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania that has brought the charges against the offender, and it is not in your power to “drop the charges”. You do, however, have a right to speak to the prosecuting attorney regarding your desire to drop the charges. If you are experiencing anxiety about testifying, please discuss your concerns with the Victim Witness Coordinator who will try to help with problems, doubts or questions you may be having. Please remember that if you receive a subpoena, you must appear in court. Failure to do so could result in being held in contempt of court.
Q: Do I need an attorney?
A: No. The Office of the District Attorney will be prosecuting the case. The District Attorney or Assistant District Attorney handling your case is representing the Commonwealth and will work with you, the police and any other witnesses to prepare the prosecution of your case. The only time you would need an attorney would be if you were to file a civil suit against the offender.
Q: How long will the case take to go to trial?
A: Each case is different. Many factors go into whether or not a case will go to trial and when. It is important for you to stay in contact with the Victim Witness Coordinator who will work closely with the prosecuting attorney and can speak with the prosecutor to find out what factors may delay a case from going to trial.
Q: What if I am threatened by the offender or his/her friends?
A: Most victims and witnesses of crime never have this problem, however, if the defendant or anyone else threatens you or attempts to intimidate you, notify your local police department immediately and notify the Victim Witnesses Coordinator. Criminal charges may be brought against the person making the threat, and if it is the defendant that threatens you his/her bail may be revoked.
Q: What if the defense attorney contacts me about the case? Do I have to talk to him/her?
A: Before speaking to anyone about the case, you should ask to see the person’s identification. You are under no obligation to talk to anyone. You have the right to refuse to discuss the case with the defense attorney or you may agree to speak with him/her only in the presence of the District Attorney. The only time you have to speak to a defense attorney is during a hearing and when you are under oath. You should report all contacts to the District Attorney’s office.
Q: Do I have to talk to the media?
A: No. You do not have to talk to the media. It is important to understand however that the media has the right to be in and around the courtroom. If you are approached, you may tell them that you have no comment and they will respect that. However, keep in mind that you may still be filmed or photographed. Speak with the Victim Witness Coordinator if you have a strong desire not to be approached or filmed. They will act as a liaison to the media to express your wishes.
Q: When will I get my restitution?
A: Upon sentencing, the Judge will order the amount of restitution if any is due. The offender will then have the entire term of his/her sentence in which to repay monies owed. The Northumberland County Adult Probation and Parole department will work closely with the defendant to collect any restitution that may be due to you.
Q: How do I get my property back?
A: The police department may hold your property as evidence in the case. In some cases, it can be photographed and returned to you by the police. In this case, the District Attorney may ask you to bring the property to court with you later for use in the trial. Please remember that sometimes items must be held as evidence for trial and it may take some time before it can be returned to you. Contact the Victim Witness Coordinator if you should have any questions.