FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Find the answers to frequently asked questions!
Q: Will I have to testify?
A: If you are a victim or a witness of a crime, you may have to testify in court. However, many cases plead without actually going to trial. If this happens, you will not be required to testify, as there will not be a trial. If you have concerns about testifying, contact the Victim/Witness Unit.
Q: Can I drop the charges?
A: No. The State of Washington has charged the defendant with a crime, not you. As you have not charged the crime, you cannot drop the charges. Reporting a crime is not the same as charging a crime.
Q: I have bills as a result of this crime. How can I get them paid?
A: If you have medical bills or funeral expenses resulting from a crime, Crime Victims Compensation Program may cover expenses not covered by your insurance company, including deductibles and co-pays. Generally speaking, you are responsible to pay most other bills. If a defendant is found guilty, he or she could be ordered to pay restitution to you and/or your insurance company. In order to have restitution ordered, you must provide the Victim/Witness Unit with a summary and receipts for your losses.
Q: I have been threatened or contacted by the defendant. What can I do?
A: It is essential that you report any contact from a defendant or his or her family/friends to law enforcement and/or the prosecutor's office immediately. This may be a violation. If you have evidence of the contact, such as voicemail, caller ID, a letter, or e-mail, save the evidence until law enforcement and/or the prosecutor's office says to do otherwise. If you have not already done so, you may wish to obtain a PROTECTION ORDER. The Victim/Witness Unit can also assist you devising a safety plan.
Q: An attorney or investigator has been contacting me about the case. Do I have to talk to them?
A: If an attorney or investigator is contacting you, they most likely work for the defense. You have the right to speak with them or to decline to speak with them. You NEVER have to speak with someone simply because they show up at your home/work or call you. Victims and witnesses often feel pressured to talk immediately, but you DO NOT have to do so.
Q: I gave a statement to law enforcement. Why do I have to be interviewed?
A: Statements given to law enforcement are rarely complete. They often lack detail that help the prosecutor or defense attorney better understand the case. Your interview helps us obtain more detail about what occurred.
Q: Can someone attend the interview with me?
A: Yes. You have the right to have someone of your choosing (generally an advocate, friend, or someone from the prosecutor's office) attend interviews with you, as long as there is not a conflict. An example of a conflict would be that the person you wish to attend the interview is also a witness in the case. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that whoever attends the interview with you may become a witness at trial. If you have someone in mind that you want to attend trial with you, it is best NOT to have that person attend the interview with you as well. In addition, that person may not interfere in the interview and is only there for your support.
Q: Will the defendant go to prison or jail?
A: It depends on the type of crime and the defendant's criminal history. When convicted some defendants may go to prison (if the time ordered is longer than 12 months) or jail (if the time ordered is less than 12 months) or they may be ordered to complete community service or some other alternative sentence.
Q: Can I contact the defendant?
A: Victims and witnesses are frequently asked not to contact defendants until a case is over. In some cases, contact with the defendant may be strictly prohibited. If you and the defendant were living together, the court will frequently order the defendant to find another place to stay if released from jail.
Q: How can I be notified if the defendant is released from jail?
A: Register through the Washington Statewide Victim Information and Notification Service. You can register online or by phone. To register online, go to www.vinelink.com and click on Washington State. Follow the directions. To register by phone, call 1-877-846-3492.
You will not be notified unless you register through one of these methods. There is no automatic notification unless you register. If the defendant is released and is rearrested, you will need to register again. Registration is based on the booking number assigned when arrested.
Q: How could the defendant plead "not guilty?" I saw him do it/He confessed.
A: In our justice system, defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Almost all defendants plead "not guilty" when charged with a crime. They may decide to change their plea after talking with a lawyer, or they may decide to go to trial and require that the State prove them guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Q: Can I obtain restitution for things such as pain, suffering, and mental anguish?
A: Not through the criminal justice system. Restitution is ordered for out of pocket expenses directly related to the crime. If you would like to seek compensation for pain and suffering, you may wish to file a civil suit. However, neither the Victim/Witness Unit nor the Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney's Office can advise you in such a matter.
Q: What is a protection order? How can I get one?
A: A protection order is an order that prohibits the respondent from contacting you. There are several kinds of civil protection orders: Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, Restraining, Anti-Harassment and Vulnerable Adult. You can apply for a protection order at the clerk's office for District or Superior Court. There may or may not be a charge to obtain a protection order. For more information, contact the Victim/Witness Unit at (509) 545-3543, or call the Superior Court Clerk's Office at (509) 545-3525 or District Court Clerk’s Office at (509) 545-2131. There are also criminal No Contact Orders that the prosecutor may enter in criminal cases. If you would like a criminal no contact order, contact the Victim/Witness Unit at (509) 545-3543.
Q: How do I know when and where to go to court?
A: If you are a witness to a crime and you must appear at trial, you will receive a subpoena from the Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney or another attorney in the case. The subpoena should state where and when you must appear. When you are subpoenaed for trial, call the office that issued the subpoena a day or two before trial to see if the case is going to trial has been continued, or has been resolved. You are normally subpoenaed to appear at the Franklin County Superior Court, Franklin County District Court, or Benton Franklin County Juvenile Justice Center. It is a good idea to check in with the prosecutor’s office if you are subpoenaed to Superior or District Court prior to signing in with the clerk’s office for your witness fees.