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Frequently Asked Questions


FILING AND DROPPING CHARGES

How do I file charges against someone?

Criminal charges generally begin with an investigation by a police agency. The Madison County Prosecutor’s Office will conduct investigations regarding bad checks through our Bad Check Program. However, most other criminal activity will be referred to a police agency. We will assist persons in determining the appropriate agency to make a report.

What if I decide to drop the charges?

You may not drop charges – only the prosecutor may do so. You may forward a written statement to the prosecutor handling your case stating the reasons for wanting the charges dropped for the prosecutor’s review and consideration.

What happens if someone tries to intimidate me into not testifying?

Intimidating, threatening, and/or harassing a state’s witness is a criminal offense. You should immediately contact the police officer or detective in charge of your case to report that activity. An arrest warrant may be issued, and the defendant’s bail could be revoked. The defendant may also be required to remain incarcerated during the pendency of the trial.


SUBPOENA

What is a subpoena?

A subpoena is a court order which instructs the recipient to appear in court at a designated date and time.

I received a subpoena in the mail. Why do I have to testify? Am I compensated?

If you receive a subpoena, you must appear on the date and time specified in the subpoena. Witnesses to crimes are sometimes required to appear personally in court to tell what happened. Although it may be inconvenient, the cornerstone of a free society is the willingness of persons to appear in court so that the truth about the crime can be known. Witnesses are not compensated for lost wages or other incidental expenses involved in testifying.

What happens if I ignore the subpoena and/or otherwise fail to appear in court as ordered?

The court may issue a warrant for your arrest for failure to appear.


COURT PROCEEDINGS

What is a warrant?

A warrant is an order signed by a judge authorizing the police to arrest a person believed to have committed a crime.

What happens after a person has been arrested?

That person is brought before the court for an initial hearing and given a copy of the charging information. The charge is also read out loud. Normally, the judge automatically enters a plea of “not guilty”. Bail is then set. The court considers whether the appointment of a public defender is necessary. Finally, the court will set pre-trial conference and jury trial dates.

What is the status of a case? Can you tell me my next court date?

Your best source of information regarding future court dates is your attorney or the court itself. Court schedules are created by the court staff and are subject to change. The court possesses the most current information on its own calendar.

Can I talk to a prosecutor about my case?

That depends on whether you are a victim or a defendant. Prosecuting attorneys are ethically forbidden to speak with defendants about their cases; the only exception is in the courtroom when the judge is presiding over the case. If you are a victim, you are entitled to and should be able to speak to the deputy prosecutor handling the case. Victims are also encouraged to utilize the services of a victim’s advocate.

What is a pre-trial conference and do I need to attend?

A pre-trial conference is held to determine if there are any motions which need to be ruled upon; ensure that the prosecutor and the defense attorney have exchanged appropriate documents and that everything is on track for the trial. Sometimes pre-trial conferences are handled by conference calls. Formal pre-trial conference are also set where the defendant is required to appear. The victim may be present but is not required to appear.

What is the difference between a bench trial and a jury trial?

A bench trial is a trial before a judge and without a jury. A jury trial is a trial before a judge with a jury consisting of jurors.

Do I have to attend the trial?

Yes. Victims are important witnesses and necessary for the trial. Approximately two to three weeks prior to the scheduled trial date you should receive a subpoena to appear in court.

How will I know if the trial date has changed?

We will attempt to notify you as soon as we become aware of any changes. However, your subpoena provides you with a contact person and telephone number to call the day before you are scheduled to appear in court. At that time you will be informed if the trial date has changed.

What happens if the defendant either pleads guilty or is found guilty by a judge or jury?

The case will be set for sentencing approximately thirty days from the date of the guilty plea. Sometimes a defendant will waive the thirty day period. During this time the probation department will prepare a pre-sentence investigation report.


RESTITUTION

What is restitution?

The court may order a person convicted of a crime to make restitution to the victim for certain expenses related to the crime. The court may consider property damages, medical hospital expenses, lost earnings and funeral, burial, or cremation costs.

What about insurance?

If you have insurance, you may want to submit your claim for any losses to your insurance carrier. Any uninsured expenses may then be requested as restitution.


CHILD SUPPORT

What is the other name I keep hearing for the Child Support Division?

The Child Support Division is also referred to as the IV-D Office because the rules and regulations governing the office were enacted by Congress and are incorporated in title IV-D of the Social Security Act.

How long does it take for my child support to start coming?

There is no specific time frame within which the IV-D office will be successful in collecting child support for you. It depends on the circumstances of the non-custodial parent and the information that the office receives.

Do I have to let the non-custodian of my child(ren) have visitation if child support is not paid?

Yes. Visitation is an entirely different issue than child support. A non-custodial parent can file a contempt citation for refusal of the custodial parent to permit or arrange visitation. Likewise, a custodial parent can file a contempt citation for non-payment of child support. Concerns about a child's well-being during visitation should be directed to the court.

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