1.How long does a case take?

There is no definitive answer for this question. Depending on the specifics of the case, it could take anywhere from a few months to a few years.

2.Will I have to testify in a criminal trial?

Not all victims are required to testify in criminal trials; however, victims may be called to testify as witnesses.

3.Will I have to testify in a civil case?

In a civil trial, you will need to testify. If you refuse, you could be subpoenaed. In this case, you would have to testify truthfully or risk perjuring yourself.

4.What if I don’t want to testify?

If you do not want to testify, you should discuss this upfront with your civil attorney or the prosecutor.  The overwhelming majority of criminal cases result in a plea bargain, in which case you will not need to testify. In addition, many civil cases go to settlement without needing a trial, meaning you do not have to testify on trial. However, as a victim, you may be required to give a statement under oath, called a deposition. This deposition is often a question and answer session that takes place in an attorney’s office.

5.Who will pay for my expenses?

If found guilty in a criminal case, a judge can order the defendant to pay you restitution or compensation for your out-of-pocket expenses, such as medical bills and lost days at work.

6.How can I make my feelings about the crime known?

Every crime victim has the opportunity to submit a written or oral victim impact statement at trial before sentencing. Rather than outlining the facts of the crime, this voluntary statement details the impact of the crime on the victim and is considered by the judge and/or jury before the defendant is sentenced.

7.What is a Protection from Abuse order?

A Protection from Abuse order (PFA) is a court order available to victims of domestic abuse. It prohibits the abuser from contact with the victim and from harassing the victim’s loved ones. In most cases, a PFA could prohibit the defendant from possession of weapons. A final PFA can be in effect for up to three years. Victims obtain PFA’s by filing a petition with the local court and having a hearing with the judge. Violation of a PFA order could result in jail and fines.

8.Do I need an attorney?

In criminal cases, your interests will be represented by the county or federal prosecutor so a personal lawyer is not necessary. Attorneys are not mandatory in civil cases either but are highly recommended to make the best case for your injuries.

9.Can I afford an attorney?

Attorneys in most civil cases are retained on a contingent-fee basis. This means, if the case reaches a settlement, the attorney will receive a percentage of that settlement amount. If the case does not settle, the attorney receives nothing. In a criminal case, a prosecutor is assigned by the state at no cost to the victim.

10.What if the defendant or his/her attorney contacts me?

Before the trial, the defendant’s attorney may contact you but it is your decision whether or not to speak with him/her; you are not required. However, it is a crime for the defendant or anyone acting on behalf of the defendant to intimidate or harass you.