FAQs for Victims
- What should I wear to Court?
Please dress neatly and conservatively when making a appearance in court. Your manner of dress can have an impact upon jurors who listen to your testimony and who may be called upon to determine disputed facts.
- What do I do at the trial?
As as witness for the state, you have an important part in the trial. The truth of your testimony, the manner in which you give it, and the appearance you make while on the witness stand and in the courtroom are all factors which may be weighed by the jury or judge in deciding the case. Your will be questioned by the District Attorney, and then "cross-examined" by the attorney for the defendant. During cross-examination, witnesses sometimes feel that their personal motives for testifying are under attack, but the process is not meant to demean you, nor as a personal attack upon you. The defense attorney is charged by law with representing his client well, and this often involves bringing close scrutiny to bear upon the testimony of others. If you are concerned about the trial procedures, you may contact the assistant district attorney handling the case and he will answer your questions. A pretrial conference with witnesses is usually scheduled prior to the trial date.
- Why do I have to be outside the courtroom during the trial?
Under Texas law, witnesses who are going to testify in a case generally must remain outside of the courtroom during the trial so that they do not hear any of the other testimony.
- How are witnesses called for trial?
Witnesses are notified by subpoena when and where to appear, and what, if anything, to bring with them to court. Witnesses for the prosecution usually receive their subpoenas more than a week prior to the trial setting.
- What should I do after I receive the subpoena?
No action is required on your part after you receive the subpoena, other than appearing in court on the date and at the time stated on the subpoena. Please note that all of our subpoenas instruct the witness to check with our office before reporting to the courthouse. This may prevent an unnecessary trip to the courthouse in case of a last-minute change in the trial schedule.
- Can I be compensated for my efforts as a witness?
As a general rule, Texas law does not authorize any compensation for witnesses testifying in criminal matters. Exceptions are made in cases where the witness is from outside the state, or from outside the country in which the trial is held, in which case travel expenses and a per diem are allowed.
- What if someone threatens me to drop charges?
Such a person is obstructing justice and may be guilty of a felony offense called "Retaliation." Call the law enforcement agency which investigated the case originally or contact the assistant district attorney who is handling the case in my office. Do so as soon as possible so that the threats can be documented and action taken to prevent reoccurrence.
- What happens to the accused?
The person accused of the crime is now called the defendant. Soon after arrest by a peace officer, the defendant is taken before a judge who informs the defendant of the reason he has been arrested, and of the facts contained in the complaint. The judge is required to set an amount of bail and to advise the defendant of his rights. Unless the defendant can post bail in the amount set by the judge, he remains in custody and is normally transferred to the county jail to await further action in the case.
- What if a defense attorney contacts me about the case?
You may discuss the case with him, but we would like to know in advance if you plan to do so, and we would like to have someone from our staff present when you do. You are NOT required to discuss the case with a representative of the defense and may decline to do so. Please remember that the attorney representing the defendant is performing a legal duty when he investigates the case, but also remember that what you say can damage our case if taken in the wrong context. If you wish, you may simply refer the attorney to our office for any information he wants and decline to discuss the case with him.
- What is a Plea Bargain? Will you Plea Bargain my case?
The term "plea bargain" is unfortunate in that it is misleading to the public and implies that the defendant and his attorney have managed to have his charges reduced or receive a light sentence.
A plea bargain is an agreement between the attorney representing the state and the defendant and his attorney, that the State will recommend a specific punishment in the case, if the defendant will enter a plea of guilty. The agreement as to punishment is not binding upon the judge, who may impose any punishment within the range authorized by law. There are advantages to both the State and the defendant in arriving at such an agreement in many cases, but you may rest assured that we will not negotiate such a plea for less punishment that a jury would likely set under the facts of your particular case. In the event your case is set for a plea of guilty, you will be notified by the assistant district attorney handling the case of the date and time of plea. You will not be subpoenaed but are welcome to come to the hearing. The assistant district attorney will be available to answer any questions you may have.