Victim/Witness FAQ

I was the victim of a crime and the perpetrator was arrested. What happens now?

After the arrest, the arresting law enforcement agency will forward the results of its investigation to the District Attorney’s Office. The prosecutor will determine what charge(s) should be filed and a court date will be set for the offender. This would be a good time for you to call the District Attorney’s Office to ensure that we have the correct contact information for you.

When will the accused person, “the defendant,” be assigned a court date?

At the first court date, the defendant will appear with an attorney he has hired, or will request that the court (the judge) appoint him an attorney. The court will appoint an attorney to represent the defendant if the defendant is indigent. Indigent simply means financially unable to hire an attorney. The court will make the determination about whether the defendant is indigent. Alternatively, a defendant may choose to represent himself if the judge finds that he is competent to waive (give up) his right to counsel. The court will then reset the defendant’s case on its docket.

Will the perpetrator stay in jail until his trial?

Perhaps. In most cases, a defendant is entitled to have bail set while his case is pending. Bail is simply used to ensure that a defendant appears in court. If bail is set, a defendant will stay in jail until he posts bond. If he posts bond, he will be released from jail until his case is resolved.

What should I do if I am afraid the defendant will hurt me if he is released?

If you have an indication that a crime against you is imminent, you should call the police. You can register with the Louisiana Automated Victim Notification System (LAVNS) by calling 1-866-528-6748. If you register with the LAVNS system, you will be notified about the defendant’s release from jail. You should also let the District Attorney’s Office know if you are being threatened or harassed by the defendant.

Does he have to come up with the total amount of his bail in order to be let out of jail?

Not necessarily. If he posts a cash bond, he will deposit with the sheriff the full amount of his bail. That amount of money will be returned to him (or whomever posted it) after his case is disposed of. A defendant may, instead of posting the full amount of the bond himself, contract with a commercial bonding company. The bonding company will satisfy the bond (by pledging the entire bail amount) in exchange for a non-refundable fee. The fee varies, but is typically 10% to 15% of the amount of the bail.

What is a protective order? Do I need one, and if so, how do I get one?

A protective order is an order entered by a judge in a domestic court that requires a defendant to refrain from contacting a complainant and to refrain from being within a certain distance from that complainant’s place of work, school or home. If he does any of the actions listed in the order or goes into any of the places listed, he may be arrested for violation of the protective order. For more information on protective orders and peace bonds, contact the Clerk of Court’s office or the YWCA Family Violence Program.

How long will it take for my case to be resolved?

There is really no way of knowing how long it will take. Felony cases can take one to two years to be resolved, depending on whether the defendant pleads guilty or goes to trial. Misdemeanor cases are usually resolved within a year.

How long does it take for a defendant’s appeals to be complete?

There is really no way to tell how long it will take for a defendant’s appeals to be exhausted. It could take as little as one year or it could take many years, depending on the type of case. If you are registered with the Department of Corrections Victim Services Bureau, you will be notified of a successful appeal.

How can I find out what the status is of a defendant’s appeal?

You may call the Appellate Division of the District Attorney’s Office at (318) 429-7618. If you give the Appellate Division the name of the defendant they will be able to tell you the status of the appeal.

How do I find out when a defendant is set for court?

If you register for notification with the Louisiana Automated Victim Notification System (LAVNS), you will be notified each time a court date is set for the defendant. You may also contact the District Attorney’s Office or your Victim Assistance Coordinator.

How do I find out who the prosecutor is on my case?

The Victim Assistance Program can give you that information. Alternatively, you can call the main number of the District Attorney’s Office – (318) 226-6826 – and tell them the defendant’s name. They will give you the number for the section of the prosecuting attorney. An individual prosecutor will be assigned to your case until the case is disposed of or until the prosecutor is assigned to a new section. If a prosecutor is reassigned, the replacement prosecutor in that section will handle your case.

Should I go to all of the court settings?

You should discuss with your Victim Assistance Coordinator or your assigned prosecutor whether it is necessary for you to come to any specific court setting. Many court dates are set merely for procedural matters to be handled and do not require testimony nor involve resolution of the case. If your presence is necessary you will be subpoenaed in person or contacted by the District Attorney’s Office.

What should I expect if the case is set for trial?

If the case is set for trial, the victim will ordinarily receive a telephone call from the District Attorney’s Office and/or a subpoena. The subpoena is a court order requiring you (or the person named on it) to be in court at a specific date and time. If a case is set for trial, one of four things can generally be expected to happen. The trial could take place on the date it is set. Alternatively, the case could be carried for several days. This means that the case is being reset from day to day. A case is carried over if it appears that the court will not be able to attend to the case immediately, but expects to be able to get to it within that jury trial week. Another thing that could happen on trial date is that the case could be re-set. If the case is re-set, then it will be assigned a new trial date at a specific time in the future. All of the witnesses, including the victim, may expect to get new subpoenas. Many cases have several trial date settings before they actually go to trial or get resolved. Finally, the case may plead on the trial date, meaning that the defendant has changed his mind about contesting guilt, or that a plea agreement has been reached that the defendant will accept.

What would cause a case set for trial to be re-set?

Generally, two things will cause a case to be re-set. One is scheduling difficulties among the witnesses or attorneys. It is sometimes discovered after a case is set for trial and the subpoenas have gone out that one of the essential parties in the case, either attorneys or witnesses, is unable to be present at the trial. Because a trial has numerous witnesses, the possibilities for scheduling difficulties, even when the presence of a witness is ordered by the court, are great. The other thing that will cause a case to be re-set is the court’s schedule. The court will set numerous cases for trial during a designated jury trial week. Depending on the age of some cases and how many plead guilty at the last minute, some cases are likely to be re-set for a future date.

What if I would like for the charge against the defendant to be dropped?

It is the policy of the Caddo Parish District Attorney’s Office not to accept an affidavit from a crime victim wishing to drop charges against a defendant. Regardless of who initially contacted law enforcement, the case is being prosecuted by the District Attorney’s Office on behalf of the State of Louisiana. The District Attorney is sworn to uphold the laws of the State of Louisiana and protect the public. Decisions regarding pending cases, including whether to proceed with prosecution against a defendant, rest solely with the prosecutors in this office. Crime victims wishing to discuss the possible reduction or dismissal of charges must schedule an appointment by calling the Victim Assistance Program’s receptionist at (318) 226-5908. Speaking with someone in the Victim Assistance Program does not necessarily mean the status of the case will change. If you have been summoned to court, you must still attend unless otherwise notified by the District Attorney’s Office.

Suppose I have suffered a monetary loss as a result of a crime. Will the criminal justice system help me to be compensated, or do I have to go to civil court for that?

The criminal court has the power to order the defendant to make restitution to any victim of the offense. If the crime is a property crime, the court may order the defendant to repay the owner for the monetary value of the loss. For crimes involving bodily injury, the court may order payment for medical expenses. The criminal court has no power to order payment for pain and suffering or the other types of recovery that may be available in civil court. The Crime Victims Reparations Fund may also help to provide compensation to victims of certain types of crimes against the person. For more information on this program, contact the Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Office at (318) 681-0870.

How do I get restitution, if some is due me in a criminal case?

There are basically three ways for you to get your restitution in a criminal case. Restitution may be paid as a condition of a plea agreement. The restitution is paid before a plea is taken and will be forwarded to the victim. This only works if the defendant has the money to pay the restitution, or can get it before he pleads.

Another way to get restitution is to have it paid as a condition of probation. A defendant receiving probation may be ordered to pay restitution as a condition of that probation and usually makes monthly payments to his probation officer, which are then forwarded to the victim. Payments ordered as a condition of probation may come in periodic payments and only continue as long as the defendant can make the payments.

The third way of getting restitution for a victim is restitution as a condition of parole. A defendant sentenced to prison will generally be released before he has served all of his time. Defendants released before their sentenced time is completed are generally released on parole. The Board of Pardons and Paroles has the authority to order payment of restitution to the victim as a condition of a prisoner’s parole. The payments would not begin until the parole begins, so these payments will begin much later than would payments made as a condition of probation.

Restitution could also be ordered through a combination of the methods mentioned above.

How would I receive compensation under the Crime Victims Reparations Act?

If you or your loved one has been the victim of a violent crime, you may qualify for compensation through the Crime Victims Reparations Fund. For more information on the program contact Deputy Vickie Johnson (318) 681-0870.

What should I do if I am contacted by a defense attorney or an investigator for the defendant?

It is entirely up to you whether or not you speak with them. The prosecution cannot tell you not to speak with the defense; however, you are perfectly free to decline to converse with them at all. You also have the right to have a representative from the District Attorney’s Office present if you do speak with the defense.

How will I know if the telephone call I get is from the defense rather than the prosecutor or his investigator?

An ethical defense attorney or investigator will identify himself as such. If you have doubts, take the name of the person who is calling and contact the District Attorney’s Office to find out if they know the person contacting you.

How do I find out when a particular prisoner will be released from prison?

You can register with the Louisiana Department of Corrections Victim Services Bureau by sending in a registration form that your Victim Assistance Coordinator can provide. You may also contact the Bureau directly at their toll free number 1-888-342-6110. By registering with the Victim Services Bureau, you will also be notified of parole hearings and escapes.