Victims Information
Court Assistance Information
The Court System

Witnesses have rights and responsibilities in the court system.

The District Attorney's Office will assist witnesses with appearance notification, explanation of court procedures, and intervention with employers.

A subpoena is a witness's or victims official notification to appear in court. It is a court order directing a witness to be present in court at a specific time and place. Failure to appear is against the law.

A witness in a misdemeanor case is usually required to appear only at the trial. Witnesses in felony cases may be required to make several appearances.

After the District Attorney decides to file a case, the defendant's first appearance in court is at an arraignment. At this time, a judge tells the defendant the charges against him, advises him of his rights, and appoints an attorney if he does not have one. If the defendant pleads guilty, he may be sentenced. If he pleads not guilty, the case proceeds. Witnesses need not be present at arraignments.

In almost all felony cases, and in many misdemeanor cases, defense and prosecuting attorneys make pretrial legal motions concerning police conduct, evidence, and identification of defendants. Occasionally, witnesses may be called to testify at a motion.

The preliminary hearing is usually the first appearance for a witness in a felony case. At the hearing, the testimony of witnesses is needed to help a judge decide if there is sufficient evidence to place the defendant on trial.

If a defendant is "held to answer," the case will be transferred to Superior Court. The defendant will be arraigned again in Superior Court, and if he pleads not guilty, a trial date will be set. The witnesses will be required to testify again at the trial.

If witnesses cooperate with the instructions for the on-call system on the subpoena, they will not be required to make continual appearances and will only have to appear when it is necessary to testify.

Witnesses who are also victims may present their views on the crime and the defendant to the judge for consideration at the time of sentencing. This is done through either the probation officer or the prosecutor and is called the "Victim Input Statement."

Common Legal Terms
  • Acquittal:
    A final judgment by a judge or jury that the prosecution has not proven guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
  • Calendar:
    The list of cases set in the same court on the same date.
  • Complaint:
    A written accusation filed by a prosecutor in court accusing one or more persons of committing one or more crimes.
  • Continuance:
    A delay in court proceedings, which is often a defense tactic to wear down witnesses and victims. Deputy District Attorneys vigorously oppose continuances but delays occur.
  • Cross-examination:
    Questioning of a witness by an attorney following direct examination by the attorney who first called the witness.
  • Direct-examination:
    Questioning of a witness by the attorney who first called the witness.
  • Discovery:
    Pretrial procedure in which the defense receives the prosecution evidence, including witness statements, police reports, scientific examinations, etc.
  • Information:
    A written accusation in felony cases filed in Superior Court by a prosecutor following a preliminary hearing in Municipal Court.
  • Motion:
    A formal request by either the prosecution or the defense for a judge to hear and decide a disputed issue in a case.
  • Overruled:
    A judge's ruling that an attorney's objection is improper.
  • Plea:
    The response by a defendant to formal charges in court. Pleas include "guilty," "not guilty," "nolo contendere" (no contest), or "not guilty by reason of insanity."
  • Restitution:
    A payment by a criminal defendant to a crime victim for financial losses or personal injury caused by the crime.
  • Sustained:
    A judge's ruling that an attorney's objection is proper.