Victims and the Prosecution Process
Being involved in the court process can be an empowering experience when the offender is held accountable for his or her actions — and even sometimes when the outcome is different.
But despite the potential benefits of participating in the criminal justice system, it can also be a frustrating, confusing and difficult experience for a few reasons. Courthouses can be overwhelming, constantly full of busy attorneys, judges and police officers with their various workloads. Also, the court system seems to have its own language not easily understood by an outsider, and its size, pace and complexity can make a person feel unsure, lost and even intimidated. Sometimes, victims of crime and their families are the only people involved with the case who have never been in court before and are left feeling like strangers in the system.
This chapter provides information to help you better understand what to expect from the court process and to help make your involvement with the system less confusing. The following presents an overview of the criminal court process, the prosecution and your role in it, and describes certain rights and services available to you as a victim or witness of a crime.
The chapter is organized into sections because of the amount of complicated information presented:
Initiating a criminal case: clerk magistrate hearings, grand jury proceedings, arraignments and bail
Further court proceedings: conferences, hearings, dismissals, pleas and trials
Sentencing, Victim Impact Statements, and appeals
Cases involving juveniles and youthful offenders
Questions of competency and criminal responsibility as a defense, including verdicts of not guilty by reason of insanity