Your Rights Before, During & After the Trial
Before the Trial
Once a suspect (now called the defendant) has been charged with a crime, the defendant's attorney will try to discover information to help prepare the case before trial. The attorney will probably ask for, and generally receive, your name and address. However, you are not required to talk to the defendant's attorney or his representative.
If a defendant threatens you, or interferes with you in any way, do not hesitate to call the police. If you are acting as a witness for the prosecution and your safety has been threatened as a result, contact the State's Attorney immediately. It is a crime for the defendant to do anything to stop you from testifying at the trial. Victim/Witness Protection Resources may be available to increase your protection and enable your participation in court proceedings.
Before the trial, the defendant may appear at various court hearings. As a victim, you have the right to attend these hearings, the trial, and any related hearings or proceedings. You may ask the prosecutor to notify you of any appearance that you should attend. Often the judge may grant several "continuances" or delays, at the request of the defense or the prosecution. Even though delays and continuances are frustrating, it is important that you continue to appear in court when you are requested.
During the Trial
A victim has the right to be present at the trial. A victim can request that his address and phone number remain confidential, and not be listed in the court records. The prosecutor can help you prepare for the trial by telling you what questions to expect the defendant's attorney may ask.
After the Trial
If the defendant is found guilty, the judge will hold a sentencing hearing, often at a later date. The judge has several sentencing options including: confinement in a prison or jail, probation, payment of fines or restitution, or any combination of these options.
Probation is the most frequently imposed sentence. Probation means that a convicted offender will be released and may be under the supervision of a probation officer. Probation often includes special conditions such as drug testing.
In every case resulting in serious physical injury or death, a victim or the victim's representative may address the court to describe the impact of the crime. The court must also consider a victim's written impact statement describing the effects of the crime on the victim.
A victim also has the right to request restitution. The State's Attorney will help you make this request to the judge.