Victims and witnesses play a very important role in the criminal justice system. In order to successfully prosecute offenders, the cooperation and testimony of these individuals are essential.
The goal of the Victim / Witness Unit of the State’s Attorney’s Office is to assist crime victims in their contact with the criminal justice system. It is very important that if you are a victim or witness that you keep our office informed of your current address and telephone numbers. The following is a list of services and information you can obtain through the Victim / Witness Unit:
- Status information on your case
- Case status notification
- Counseling referrals
- Victim impact statement information
- Restitution information and assistance
- Criminal Injuries Compensation Board information
- Courtroom accompaniment and orientation
Your Rights as a Victim and How to Exercise Them
Once charges have been filed against an individual for a criminal act committed against you or your property which have occurred in Calvert County, the matter has been referred to the State’s Attorney’s Office for prosecution. Some of your rights as a victim are listed below:
- The right to be notified of, and present at, all court related hearings including changes in court dates, times and locations
- The right to be heard at sentencing, either through submission of a written victim impact statement and/or to speak directly to the court to tell of the physical, financial and psychological impact this crime has had on you and/or your family.
- The right to request restitution (payment of crime related costs) from the defendant in your case if he is found or pleads guilty.
- Other rights may include notification of changes in the defendant’s pretrial status, dismissal of charges, post-sentencing appeals or hearings.
If you are the victim of a Circuit Court case or a felony Juvenile Court case, you will receive a Victim Notification Request Form from the State’s Attorney’s Office at the onset of the prosecution of the charges. You should complete and return this form to the State’s Attorney’s Office at your earliest convenience. This aids the Victim/Witness Unit by providing us with the most current address and telephone numbers for you as well as letting us know that you wish to be actively involved in the prosecution process. If you have any questions regarding your rights or the court process in general, the Victim/Witness Unit can answer them for you as well as assist you with referrals to other victim service provider agencies.
In many cases restitution is a major issue. The Victim/Witness Unit will assist you in insuring that restitution will be addressed by the Court.
- If the defendant is found guilty or pleads guilty, the judge may order the defendant or juvenile respondent to reimburse you for your out-of-pocket costs. It is important that you provide receipts, copies of bills and/or estimates for repair to the Victim/Witness Unit prior to Court dates so that the prosecutor can be aware of and request an order for such amounts. We also need to know if you filed a claim with your insurance company and the outcome of the claim.
- The Criminal Injuries Compensation Board is a state funded program which provides financial assistance to crime victims when there are no other financial resources available to cover medical, mental health, lost wages or funeral expenses incurred as a direct result of a crime.
Your Responsibilities as a Witness
Being called to testify as a witness in a criminal case is a big responsibility. Once you have received a subpoena, you should note the date on your personal calendar and make arrangements with your employer to attend court on the appointed date. If you have any scheduling problems or questions, please contact the Victim/Witness Unit with your concerns. The evening before the court date, please call the after-hours line for a recorded message regarding any case scheduled for the following day which may have had a status change which may excuse you from appearing. One of the primary goals of the victim/witness unit is to facilitate and assist the victims/witnesses in their court appearances and to insure that they experience as little inconvenience as possible in fulfilling their duty to testify.
You should also be aware that there is a possibility that the defendant’s attorney and/or an investigator working on the defendants behalf may attempt to contact you regarding your testimony as they prepare their defense. You are not required to speak to them prior to the court proceedings. The choice is entirely yours and if you decide to do so, you should notify the State’s Attorney’s Office of your decision. If you decide to talk to the defendant’s attorney or investigator but would feel more comfortable having the prosecutor handling the case present, please contact our office first and we will make arrangements for a mutually convenient time.
Your physical appearance in the Courtroom is very important. You should dress neatly and conservatively.
Testifying in Court
As a witness, you will be questioned first by the State’s Attorney and then by the defendant’s attorney. The prosecutor may again then ask you additional questions to clarify your answers. Please keep the following in mind when testifying:
- Always tell the truth
- Dress neatly and conservatively, and be courteous
- Be attentive. You should remain alert at all times so that you can hear, understand, and give a proper response to each question.
- Take your time and speak clearly and loudly. Give the question such thought as it requires to understand it. The juror farthest from you should be able to hear distinctly what you have to say. Do not chew gum and keep your hands away from your mouth. Since all testimony is recorded, do not nod your head “yes” and “no”.
- Answer all questions directly. Answer only the questions asked, then stop. Avoid “volunteering” information. If you do not understand a question, ask that it be explained
- If you do not remember details, it is okay to say you do not recall. It is alright to answer in the affirmative when asked whether or not you have talked with anybody about the case prior to court. It is perfectly proper for you to have talked to the prosecutor, police or family members before you testify.
- Do not discuss the case with anyone outside of the Courtroom until after the case is over.
- Do not guess at answers. Tell only what you know.
- Stay Calm. The object is only to have you tell what you know and to tell it truthfully.