The Role of the Victim / Witness in the Justice System

You are a witness because you have seen, heard, or know something about a crime.  If you are the victim of a crime or have information about the events before, during, or after a crime occurred the case may not be prosecuted unless you testify. 

You may not think that what you know about the case is significant, but it may be highly important.  Many small pieces of information are often required to determine what happened.  To prevent delay and possible dismissal of a case, witnesses must be present when asked to appear. 

* * Your Responsibilities as a Victim/Witness 

  • Provide a valid address and telephone number
  • Provide timely notice of any change in address and/or telephone number
  • Provide notice of any vacation or travel plans
  • Be present and punctual when subpoenaed for court appearances
  • ALWAYS TELL THE TRUTH

Will I Have to Testify?

Witnesses are expected to testify at the preliminary hearing and at trial, should the case proceed to trial.  Many cases end in the entry of a plea.  If a plea is entered in your case there would not be a trial. However, if the case proceeds to trial and your testimony is needed, you will receive a subpoena or notice to appear.

If you have concerns or anxieties about testifying, the Victim Witness Program offers a Courtroom Orientation to help you understand the process and know what to expect.  Please note that we will NOT review your testimony with you. 

Tips on Being a Witness

  • Dress neatly and conservatively, as if going to church or a wedding.  Remember your appearance makes an impression on the jury.
The Court enforces a dress code policy that prohibits tank tops, bare midriffs, flip flops, vulgar/offensive t-shirts, etc. 
  • Do not memorize your testimony but try to review the facts before trial.  You will NOT be “rehearsed” on your testimony.  Your testimony should come from your memory of the events as you remember the events to have occurred. 
  • Speak loudly and clearly.  Address the jury if possible.
  • Be serious in the courtroom.
  • Be polite when answering questions.  Do not lose your temper.
  • Listen carefully to the entire question before answering.
  • If you do not understand the question, say so.  If you do not have an answer, say so.  Do not guess.  If you do not remember, say so. 
  • If you make a mistake in answering a question, say so and correct it.
  • Do not volunteer information.  Answer the question that is asked.  Give short answers if that is what is called for: “yes” or “no” if that is what is appropriate.
  • Do not discuss your testimony with other witnesses.
  • Do not make statements to the media prior to or during a trial without first consulting with the District Attorney.
  • ALWAYS TELL THE TRUTH.

What to Expect on Trial Day

Location:  Criminal trials are held in the Perry County Courthouse in Courtroom One.  Juvenile Hearings are typically held in Courtroom Two.

Parking:  Parking is on-street parking.  All parking in the New Bloomfield square and the block around the Courthouse is 2 hour parking and is strictly enforced. 

Time:  Criminal trials typically begin at 9:00 a.m.  You should arrive ½ hour prior to the start of the trial and report to Courtroom One or check-in with the first floor receptionist.  Juvenile proceedings are specially scheduled.  You will be notified of the date and time for these proceedings.

Waiting Area:  A private waiting area is available prior to trial, during lunch break, and during jury deliberations for victims and their support persons.

Lunch:  A one-hour lunch break will be taken during the course of the trial.  New Bloomfield has several restaurant options including Mama’s Pizza, The County Seat, and The Country Curve. 

Child Care:  We do not have child care available at the Courthouse.  Young children should not be brought into the courtroom unless they are witnesses.  Please make appropriate child care arrangements for the day. 

Length of Trial:  We cannot anticipate when a trial will conclude.  Most trials are over in one day but the conclusion depends on the amount of time it takes a jury to deliberate and reach a verdict.  

Public Access:  Criminal trials are open to the public.  Friends, family, and loved ones may accompany you to trial.  A victim advocate will also be present to accompany you and provide assistance.  Most juvenile proceedings are closed to the public.  As a victim in a juvenile proceeding, however, you have the right to have a support person(s) with you during the proceeding. 

Witness Fee:  You may collect a witness fee for appearing in court under subpoena through the Prothonotary/Clerk of Court’s office.  You must bring your subpoena with you.

© 2008 Perry County Victim Witness Program : : PCVWP
This project was supported by the Office for Victims of Crime, U.S. Department of Justice. 
Points of view are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position of the U.S. Department of Justice.


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