Victim Witness Assistance Program - How the System Works
The accused must be arrested. For this to happen, a warrant (the document giving the police the authority to make an arrest) must be issued by a Judge. This means you must tell the Police or Judge as clearly as possible exactly what happened.
The accused must be identified. As a witness, you may be asked to accompany a police officer to a lineup to identify the suspect or by a photo lineup.
After the accused has been arrested, bail/bond can be set. This is the amount of money or property secured by the jail, which allows the accused to be released from jail until the trial. In some instances, a bond is not given and therefore the accused stays in jail. At other times, a Defense Attorney can request a bond hearing to be held in Superior Court and the District Attorney's office can either agree to or oppose the motion for bond.
Pre-Trial Hearings/MotionsIn most cases, a series of pre-trial hearings will be held after the arrest and before the trial. Victims sometimes do not need to attend but are able to attend any and all if you so choose. If you are needed at any of the hearings, you will be notified in advance by either a subpoena or phone call from the District Attorney's Office or Victim Witness. A representative of the Victim Witness Assistance Program may also talk to you to help you understand exactly what will happen and what will be expected of you.
- Preliminary hearings - usually held within a few weeks after the arrest and evidence is presented to a Magistrate Judge in Magistrate Court who will decide whether probable cause exists in order to send the case up to Superior Court. Not all cases will have a Preliminary Hearing.
- If the case is a felony, the next event will usually be a Grand Jury Hearing. At this time a police officer will give sworn testimony behind closed doors to a group of 23 citizens called together to decide whether or not there is enough evidence to indict (formally charge) the Defendant. Once an indictment has occurred, the case will be assigned randomly to a Judge and an Assistant District Attorney (ADA).
- The Arraignment is the next proceeding. This is when the Defendant is formally advised of the charges against them and can enter a plea of "guilty" or "not guilty" to the charges in Superior Court.
- A variety of motions may be filed by the Assistant District Attorney or the Defendant's Attorney and will be heard by the Judge.
At any time before the trial, the Defendant may enter a plea of guilty. If this happens, the Judge will sentence the Defendant and the case will be completed.
The Defense Attorney, the lawyer representing the Defendant, may contact you to take your statement or question you about your case. You have the right to decide whether or not you will talk to them. If you do, and they take a written statement from you, it's important to obtain a copy for yourself and to show the ADA handling your case.
You will be notified by a subpoena, which is a Court Order, to be present in Court on a specific date and time. You are required by law to attend unless you are told otherwise by the party who subpoenas you or until you are excused by the Court. If that State subpoenas you, please keep in contact with the Assistant District Attorney and investigators assigned to your case. If you are a witness, subpoenaed by the Office of the District Attorney, you can call the Witness Information line to be placed on call at (706) 290-6075. The recording will ask you to leave your name, case number and date of the trial which is listed on the subpoena and all your contact information. This will help you avoid any unnecessary trips to the Courthouse.
- Jury Selection
- The trial will begin with opening statements by each side, beginning with the State
- The State will first present its evidence, which may include your testimony
- Then the Defense will presents its evidence
- Attorneys on each side will have a chance to ask questions of each witness
- The Jury decides if the Defendant is guilty or not guilty
- If the Jury decides the Defendant is guilty, the Judge, not the Jury, will impose the punishment or sentence
TestifyingThe procedure for bringing a person to trial takes time. Your patience and cooperation makes the system work because at times being called to testify may not be convenient for you. You may receive a subpoena from Superior Court to testify on behalf of the State. If so, you can you can call the Witness Information line to be placed on call at (706) 290-6075. The recording will ask you to leave your name, case number and date of the trial which is listed on the subpoena and all your contact information. This will help you avoid any unnecessary trips to the Courthouse.
- If you have to testify, please remember these tips:
- Remember the incident and what happened so that you can recall more accurately when you are asked questions
- Write facts down, if necessary
- A neat appearance and proper dress in Court are important - this means no jeans, shorts, halter tops, etc.
- Telling the truth is the most important thing you can do to make your testimony more effective
- The District Attorney's Office will assist you in any questions prior to your Court appearance
- Do not chew gun on the witness stand
- Be serious in the Courtroom and avoid laughing
- Do not speak to other witnesses about your testimony either before or after you have testified
- Speak clearly and loud enough for the jury to hear
- Listen to the questions that are asked of you from the Attorney's and if you need a question repeated, just ask
- Answer directly and simply the question that is asked. Do not volunteer information that has not been asked for
- If you do not understand a question, ask for it to be re-stated and if you do not understand a word, ask for the definition
- The Judge and Jury are interested only in the facts and do not need your conclusions or opinions
For more information and to see a chart of the sequence of events, please visit: http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/justsys.cfm.