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Frequently Asked Questions

What services does the Victim Assistance Program provide?

The victim assistants keep the victims informed of upcoming court dates and provide information on community resources and referrals. They can also provide court accompaniment and schedule a meeting with the deputy prosecutor handling the case. The program serves as a platform to educate victims about their rights.


What happens at court hearings?

The first hearing is an initial hearing, in which the judge will inform the defendant of his or her charges. If the defendant is still incarcerated at their initial hearing, the judge will schedule a Bond Review Hearing to take place at a later date.

After initial hearings and bond reviews, most cases have a number of pretrial conferences. A pretrial conference is more like a “status” hearing where the deputy prosecutor and defense attorney will exchange information. There is often a plea agreement offered to the defendant at this time. If the defendant chooses to accept a plea agreement, the case will be scheduled for a dispositional hearing, in which the defendant will go in front of the judge and admit to the crimes listed in the plea.

If a plea agreement cannot be reached, the case may be scheduled for a bench trial or jury trial. If a trial is necessary, the deputy prosecutor and your victim assistant will be in touch with you to discuss the procedures.


Will I have to testify in court?

The victim assistants are available to help you understand the case and the likelihood of your need to testify in court. Victim assistants can also arrange for a tour of the courtroom when the court is not in session to help you feel comfortable with testifying. Victim assistants will also help prepare you for testifying by explaining procedures and answering your questions. The Court System is prepared to accommodate the needs of individuals testifying in court, including interpretation and other special requirements. To access these accommodations, ask the victim assistant assigned to your case for help.


What is a deposition?

A deposition is an informal proceeding in which an attorney questions a potential witness in a case. In a deposition, the witness is called the deponent and is sworn to tell the truth before any questions are asked. A deputy prosecutor and the defendant’s lawyer will be present.

When a deposition is taken of a victim, the defendant’s lawyer will ask questions, while the court reporter records what is said in order to prepare a written transcript. The Court Reporter later provides a written copy to the attorneys. Portions of the transcript could be used at a trial.


Will I have to see the defendant?

Depending on your case, you may or may not have to see the defendant in court or in court-related proceedings. You may request a no contact order if you would like to prevent the defendant from contacting you. If you are in the courtroom with the defendant, the baliff will maintain security. You may talk to your victim assistant and the deputy prosecutor handling your case if this is uncomfortable for you, and they may be able to make arrangements that still honor the defendant’s rights and accommodate for your comfort.


I received a subpoena. What does this mean?

A subpoena is a court order to appear on the date indicated in order to testify. Failure to appear could result in a warrant for your arrest.


What is a No Contact Order?

When a suspect is charged with a violent crime, it is typical for the court to issue an automatic no contact order. This order is put in place to protect the victim from further victimization, harassment, etc. from the offender. Contact your victim assistant caseworker if you want to request a no contact order in the pending criminal case.


What is a Protective Order?

A protective order is an order issued by a judge that prohibits or restricts another person from engaging in certain conduct. Individuals can receive protective orders if they have been a victim of sexual assault or stalking from a person who was involved with them by marriage, family relationships, or dating relationships. Protective orders can prohibit another person from committing the following:

  • Threatening to commit or committing act of domestic or family violence against you
  • Abusing, harassing, or contacting you or a member of your household.
  • Entering your property or workplace

If you would like to file a protective order, please visit the Clerk’s Office on the second floor of the Madison County Government Center.


Will a plea agreement be offered in my case?

Most criminal cases are resolved through negotiated plea agreements. Therefore, it is likely that a plea agreement will be offered. A plea agreement can hold a defendant accountable through a guilty plea and criminal conviction, while avoiding the need for the victim or other witnesses to testify in court. As a victim, you may have the opportunity to discuss the agreement with the deputy prosecutor handling the case.

 

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