|How often will I have to appear in court?
Each case is different. There are a few different ways that a case can go. The initial appearance is the first step in the court process. At the initial appearance, the defendant will enter a guilty, not guilty, or no contest plea. If the defendant pleads not guilty, the case will be scheduled for either a trial or a pre-trial. A pre-trial is a meeting between the defendant (or his/her attorney) and the prosecutor. Your advocate is present during the pre-trial. You do not have to appear for the pre-trial. It is one of your rights, however, to be present for all court hearings. If you choose not to appear for the pre-trial, you will want to let your advocate know. A pre-trial session may be able to be held over the phone with you. If your case is scheduled for a trial, most likely you will be required to appear in court, and you will be notified with a subpoena. You will be notified each time you are needed, and whenever possible, if the case has been delayed or canceled. It is very important for the Court and the Victim Assistance Program to have your current address and phone number.
What if court dates conflict with my job?
Ohio law, in accordance with Section of 2930.18 of the Ohio Revised Code, prohibits certain actions by employers of victims. No employer of a victim shall discharge, discipline, or otherwise retaliate against the victim, a member of the victim’s family, or a victim’s representative for participating, at the Prosecutor’s request, in preparation for a criminal justice proceeding or for attendance, pursuant to a subpoena, at a criminal proceeding if the attendance is reasonably necessary to protect the interests of the victim. This section generally does not require an employer to pay an employee for time lost as a result of attendance at a criminal proceeding.
Everyone seems focused on the rights of the defendant. Why is that?
In our country, any person accused of a crime is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. That person also has a right to face their accusers in a court of law. Our criminal justice system requires many painstaking steps to protect these rights. The system is designed to make sure innocent people aren’t sent to jail or prison. As a result, court proceedings often seem cumbersome or confusing. Although it may seem the system puts the rights of the accused ahead of the victim’s needs and concerns, it is important to remember that Prosecutors, Judges and others in law enforcement are working hard to make sure that the correct person pays the consequences of the crime.
What if the defendant’s attorney wants to talk to me?
You can decide whether or not to discuss the case with the defendant’s legal council. Always make sure you know who you are talking with when you discuss the case. Ask for identification. You may ask to have the Prosecutor with you during the interview. Give clear and precise statements. Be aware your statements may be used in court.
What should I wear?
Court isn’t a formal occasion, but you should dress nicely. Shorts and tank tops are not appropriate for the courtroom. Dress nicely and conservatively if possible. Something that you would wear for a special occasion or to church would also be appropriate.
Why have I been given a subpoena?
You are being asked to serve as a witness in a criminal court trial. A subpoena lists the date, time, place and proceedings in which your testimony is required. If you have any question about the subpoena, feel free to call your Advocate to have your questions answered. Do not ignore your subpoena. You will be notified if the case is cancelled.
If you fail to appear after being served with a subpoena, you could be charged with contempt of court. Please do not think that a subpoena is issued to witnesses that are non-compliant. Subpoenas are issued to all witnesses whose testimony is necessary in a trial and are not a reflection of your cooperation in the criminal court case.
What is expected of me as a witness?
Being a witness means that you have seen, heard, or know something about a crime that has been committed. In order to make a decision, a Judge or Jury needs to hear all of the evidence concerning the case. Your testimony is one way to present that information. If you testify to only what you witnessed and the truth about what you witnessed, and you have done what is expected of you.
Where do I go?
The trial will be held in the Chardon Municipal Court. The courtroom is located on the first floor of the Chardon Municipal Center. When you enter the building, stop in to see your Advocate and she will direct you from there. The address of the Court is: 111 Water Street, Chardon, Ohio. (All hearings/meetings regarding the criminal case will be held in the same building unless you are advised otherwise.)
Do I have to bring anything along?
If there are no specific instructions on your subpoena or from the Prosecutors’ Office or the Victim Assistance Program, it is not necessary to bring anything. It is okay if you want to bring a book, etc., to keep yourself occupied when you are not in the courtroom. It is difficult to estimate how long everything will take, so it is better to be prepared.
Who will be asking me questions during the trial?
The Prosecutor will ask you questions first. The Defense Attorney(s) will then ask you questions after the Prosecutor is finished.
What will happen when the Defense Attorney questions me during the trial?
This is called cross-examination. Try not to worry, it is probably going to be nothing like what you have seen on television. The Defense Attorney may try to confuse you by asking you questions quickly, or in a confusing way. Don’t panic! If you don’t understand what the Attorney is asking you, it is perfectly fine for you to ask him/her to slow down, to repeat a question, or to explain what he/she is asking. Everything will go smoothly as long as you remember these few helpful hints.
Why are there delays in holding the trial?
The Prosecutor or Defendant’s Attorney may ask for more time to prepare the case, or to locate important witnesses. Trials are sometimes delayed because the Judge or one of the Attorneys has a scheduling conflict with the proposed court date. Some delays arise at the last minute, but every effort is made to notify victims and witnesses to prevent unnecessary trips to Court.
How long will the trial take?
It is very difficult to estimate how long a criminal trial will take because every case is different. The trial may last an hour or two or an entire day or two. It is best to prepare and make the plans necessary to spend a full day in court. It is always best to over estimate than under estimate.
What should I wear?
Court isn’t a formal occasion, but you should dress nicely. Shorts and tank tops are not appropriate for the courtroom. Dress nicely and conservatively if possible. Something that you would wear for a special occasion or to church is appropriate.
What is a Victim Impact Statement?
A Victim Impact Statement is a statement made in court and in front of the Judge concerning how the crime has affected you physically and/or emotionally, how the crime has affected your family, what type of sentence the defendant should receive, and can include issues such as lost wages, medical damages, and/or property loss. A Victim Impact Statement is a statement made to the court after the defendant has been found guilty, and before the imposition of a sentence. Your statement can be made in person in front of the Judge, in written form handed to the court, or by your Victim Advocate on your behalf.
Please refer to the Chardon Municipal Court Flowchart which depicts the court process.