“All advocacy is, at its core, an exercise in empathy.” – Samantha Power
Being the victim of a crime is something that most people never experience. However, those that do often suffer significant impacts to their lives, be it financially, physically, mentally, or emotionally. We want to be proactive in prosecuting offenders – that means we include and inform victims in nearly every step of a criminal case.
To help us accomplish this goal, we have two Victim Advocates whose sole purpose is to be a liaison between our attorneys and victims of crime.
1. To be present and allowed in court at any hearing to which the defendant has a right to be present.
2. Upon request, to be notified of all hearings or court appearances on the case.
3. To appear at sentencing and make a statement.
4. To receive restitution when possible.
5. To be provided a secure waiting area for court.
6. To be informed of financial assistance and social services available.
7. To be informed if the defendant is released or escapes.
A subpoena is an official court order requiring you to appear at the time and place it specifies — usually to provide testimony. You should have your subpoena with you when you appear. Failure to appear constitutes contempt of court. If you should move or change your telephone number after receiving a subpoena, please contact the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office immediately.
After being arrested, the defendant (accused person) is arraigned in Associate Circuit Court. The purpose of arraignment is to review the amount of bail, to furnish the defendant with a copy of the charge(s), and to see that legal counsel is provided by the defendant or the court.
Bail is cash or a security bond to assure the defendant appears in court at the next scheduled hearing. The amount of bail is set by the court and may vary depending on a number of factors including the seriousness of the offense or offenses charged. Bail is assigned to each case on an individual basis to ensure the defendant appears in court. In addition, it is also applied when the defendant poses a threat to the safety of crime victims, witnesses, or the community.
An arrest warrant is an order signed by a judge, authorizing the police to arrest a person believed to have committed a crime.
The Prosecuting Attorney’s Office will attempt to reach you by telephone. If you request, we will send you a subpoena to make your appearance easier. The subpoena will specify the time and place for you to appear and what, if anything, you should bring. Should any continuances (delays) of your case occur, you will be notified as soon as we become aware of the delay.
A docket call is a short hearing held in a pending case. At this hearing, the prosecutor, the defendant’s attorney and defendant are required to be present. The judge asks what the status of the case is and what remains to be done. If the case is ready for final disposition a plea or trial date will be set. If an additional docket call is needed, one will be scheduled.
A preliminary hearing applies only to felony cases. Testimony is taken under oath and the judge, defendant and defendant’s attorney, the prosecutor and any victims or witnesses subpoenaed are present.
At the preliminary hearing, the Prosecuting Attorney has to establish a reasonable belief that:
- A crime has been committed in St. Francois County, and;
- The defendant may have committed the crime.
During this proceeding, the defendant’s attorney may cross-examine the state’s witnesses and present evidence, if he/she wishes. Once probable cause is established, the judge will order the defendant to appear in Circuit Court. In most cases, the defendant will not demand the preliminary hearing and the case will then be sent directly to Circuit Court.
If you are called or subpoenaed to testify at a preliminary hearing, the prosecutor will ask that you take the witness chair and, under oath, answer questions. You will talk with the Prosecuting Attorney before the hearing about what type of questions will be asked.
A deposition is the recorded testimony of a witness, given under oath in the presence of both the defense attorney and the prosecuting attorney. The purpose of taking a deposition is to determine and preserve the testimony of a witness, but does not mean you won’t have to testify at trial.
A crime committed against any person is prosecuted as a crime against the state. For this reason, the court can compel testimony of a victim or witness to a crime. Should you have any reluctance about testifying in a case, please discuss your concerns with the Victim/Witness Advocate or the prosecutor handling the case. They will try to help with any problems, doubts or questions you may have.
Your insurance may provide coverage for personal injury or property loss due to a crime. If your report of a crime results in the offender being placed on probation or parole, the court may order the offender to pay for the cost of your injuries, damages or loss. An order does not guarantee payment and many times, is not possible. However, this office will make every effort to see that payment is made when ordered.
The Victim Compensation Act may provide monetary compensation for some uninsured out-of-pocket losses as a result of personal injury.
First and foremost, you will have done what you can to hold a criminal offender accountable. You may, at times, feel frustrated or discouraged because the process of justice does take time. The system may seem slow to you, but some of the delays you may encounter are part of the system that protects your rights if someone accuses you of a crime.
Only on extremely rare occasions are witnesses threatened. If anyone has threatened you in connection with the case in which you are involved, either in or out of court, he/she may have committed a new crime. Immediately contact your local Police Department or Sheriff’s Office and report the threat and then tell the Prosecuting Attorney handling the case.
Contact law enforcement immediately — your local police department if you live in a municipality or St. Francois County Sheriff’s Department if you live in the county. Inform the officer that you are a victim or witness in a pending case. Report to them that the defendant has contacted you. Then, notify our office at 573-756-1955.
Most frequently, victims and witnesses ask to have someone from the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office be present. You may be contacted by the defense attorney or a private investigator hired by the defense attorney. You have the right to refuse to speak with them at all, if you so desire.
In a trial, the prosecutor presents the case for the state. The Prosecuting Attorney has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did commit the alleged crime. The defendant may present evidence, although he or she has no obligation to do so. The trial may be either before a judge, or before a jury. The defendant makes that choice.
Victims have a constitutional right to be in court. As a witness, you may watch the proceedings unless excluded from the courtroom by the judge. In any event, witnesses should not discuss their testimony with each other.
A defendant who has been found guilty or has pleaded guilty is sentenced by the judge. Using the state statues as a guideline, (sentences are expressed in terms of minimums, maximums and other options), the judge sentences the defendant in a manner appropriate to the crime and other circumstances related to the case.