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When will my case go to court?

Court proceedings begin after the arrest of the suspect. The first step involves only the defendant - an arraignment (See Court Process section for detailed explanations of procedures). The case will receive a "docket number" and will be listed according to the defendant's name ("The People of the State of New York versus Defendant"). An Assistant District Attorney is assigned to the case.

After the arraignment, the Assistant District Attorney will contact you by telephone or letter. This will usually be your first notice that the case is now pending prosecution in court. It is important to keep in contact with your Assistant District Attorney. If you move or change phone numbers, be sure to give the Assistant District Attorney your new contact information, so that the District Attorney's Office will be able to reach you.

I have to take time off from work to appear in court. My employer doesn't like it. What do I do?

Talk with the Assistant District Attorney about this. The subpoena notice or a letter from the Assistant District Attorney can show your employer the need for you to be absent from work.

Can I have property being used as evidence returned?

If clothing or other belongings are being used as evidence in court, it will be needed until the final disposition of the case. Tell the Assistant District Attorney if you would like the items returned. Be sure to ask if their condition has been altered due to the evidence collection process.

What about transportation to court?

Generally, you are expected to arrange your own transportation when you are needed to appear as a witness. If you drive, there are a number of ramps and parking lots close to the court buildings (see Downtown Parking Information). If you use public transportation, allow extra time on the day you are going to court. Should your car break down or you miss a bus, call the Assistant District Attorney to say you will be late.

What if the defendant contacts me?

If the defendant is unknown to you, it isn't often that the defendant will attempt to contact the victim after the crime.  If he does, it usually is to scare the victim into dropping charges. This might also be done by a friend or family member of the defendant. 

Fear of retaliation can be a common concern, but actually it is a very infrequent occurrence. Most defendants are aware that should any threat be reported by a victim of a crime, they would be prime suspects and face additional criminal charges. If any contact is attempted by the defendant, his friends or family, make a note of the date, time and what was said, and immediately report it first to the police, then to the Assistant District Attorney assigned to your case.  

If you are a victim of domestic violence, contact by the defendant after an arrest is very common and a serious problem, which needs to be addressed immediately. The BE SAFE Domestic Violence Victim Advocacy Program can provide safety tips and other support. 

What if the defense attorney contacts me?

If the defendant's lawyer or someone from the lawyer's office asks to speak with you about the case, you have the right to refuse. The defense attorney is interested in gaining any information that will help his client, and anything you tell him/her can be brought up later in court. It is for you to decide if it is in your best interest to discuss your case with anyone other than the Assistant District Attorney assigned to your case.

Why will I receive a subpoena?

Anytime that you will be needed as a witness for court, you will receive a subpoena to serve as official notice. The subpoena gives you the date, time and place at which you need to appear. This can also be shown to employers or school officials to document an absence from work or classes for court business. The District Attorney's Office realizes most people testify willingly in cases where they have been victimized by crime. Nevertheless, all witnesses are sent subpoenas. When you receive a subpoena, call the Assistant District Attorney to confirm that you will be present. Bring the subpoena with you so that the courtroom location will be handy.