Frequently Asked Questions
Will I have to testify?
Can I drop the charges?
I have bills as a result of this crime. How can I get them paid?
I have been threatened or contacted by the defendant. What can I do?
An attorney or investigator has been contacting me about the case. Do I have to talk to them?
I gave a statement to law enforcement. Why do I have to be interviewed?
Can someone attend the interview with me?
Will the defendant go to prison or jail?
Can I contact the defendant?
How do I know when and where to go to court?
How can I be notified if the defendant is released from jail?
How could the defendant plead "not guilty?" I saw him/her do it.
Can I get restitution for things such as pain, suffering, and mental anguish?
What is a protection order? How can I get one?
Q: Will I have to testify?
A: If you are a victim or a witness of a crime, you may have to testify in court. However, many cases plead without actually going to trial. If this happens, you will not be required to testify, as there will not be a trial. If you have concerns about testifying, contact the Victim/Witness Unit.
Q: Can I drop the charges?
A: No. The State of Washington has charged the defendant with a crime, not you. As you have not charged the crime, you cannot drop the charges. Reporting a crime is not the same as charging a crime.
Q: I have bills as a result of this crime. How can I get them paid?
A: If you have medical bills or funeral expenses resulting from a crime, Crime Victims Compensation may cover expenses not covered by your insurance company which would include deductibles and copays. Generally speaking, you are responsible to pay most other bills. If a defendant is found guilty, he or she could be ordered to pay restitution to you and/or your insurance company. In order to have restitution ordered, you must provide the Victim/Witness Unit with a summary and receipts for your losses.
Q: I have been threatened or contacted by the defendant. What can I do?
A: It is essential that you report any contact from a defendant or his or her family/friends to law enforcement and/or the prosecutor's office immediately. This may be a violation. If you have evidence of the contact, such as voicemail, caller ID, a letter, or e-mail, save the evidence until law enforcement and/or the prosecutor's office says to do otherwise. If you have not already done so, you may wish to obtain a Protection Order. The Victim/Witness Unit can also assist you devising a safety plan.
Q: An attorney or investigator has been contacting me about the case. What should I do?
A: First, as a victim or witness to a crime, you should always take the time to identify who exactly you are talking with. Any person legitimately involved in a case will always be able to provide identification. Second, unless under court order, you have the right to speak with anyone or decline to speak with anyone. Third, according to RCW 7.69.030(10), with respect to victims of violent and sex crimes, the victim, survivors of victims, and witnesses of any criminal court and/or juvenile court proceeding, can have a crime victim advocate from a crime Victim/Witness Unit, or any other support person of the victim's choosing, present at any prosecutorial or defense interviews with the victim, and at any judicial proceedings related to criminal acts committed against the victim. This applies if practical and if the presence of the crime victim advocate or support person does not cause any unnecessary delay in the investigation of the case. The role of the crime victim advocate is to provide emotional support to crime victims.
The Victim/Witness Unit has interview request forms and procedures to coordinate interviews with defense attorneys or their investigators. Feel free to contact the Victim/Witness Unit for assistance with interviews.
Q: I gave a statement to law enforcement. Why do I have to be interviewed?
A: Statements given to law enforcement may not always be complete. They sometimes lack detail that help the attorneys involved understand the case better.
Q: Can someone attend the interview with me?
A: Yes. You have the right to have someone of your choosing (generally an advocate, friend, or someone from the prosecutor's office) attend interviews with you, as long as there is not a conflict. An example of a conflict would be that the person you wish to attend the interview is also a witness in the case. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that whoever attends the interview with you may become a witness at trial. If you have someone in mind that you want to attend trial with you, it is best NOT to have that person attend the interview with you as well.
Q: Will the defendant go to prison or jail?
A: It depends on the type of crime, the defendant's criminal history and the resolution of the case.
Q: Can I contact the defendant?
A: Victims and witnesses are frequently asked not to contact defendants until a case is over. In some cases, contact with the defendant may be strictly prohibited. If you and the defendant were living together, the court will frequently order the defendant to find another place to stay if released from jail.
Q: How can I be notified if the defendant is released from jail?
A: You may access the Spokane County Sheriff's Office website for defendant information www.spokanesheriff.org. For immediate notification if a defendant is released, please contact the Washington Statewide Victim Information & Notification Service (VINE) www.vinelink.com or call 1-(877) 846-3492. If you have further questions, contact the Spokane County Jail at (509) 477-2278.
Q: How could the defendant plead "not guilty"? I saw him do it.
A: In our justice system, defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Almost all defendants plead "not guilty" when charged with a crime. They may decide to change their plea after talking with a lawyer, or they may decide to go to trial and require that the State prove them guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Q: Can I get restitution for things such as pain, suffering, and mental anguish?
A: Not through the criminal justice system. Restitution is ordered for out of pocket expenses directly related to the crime. If you would like to seek compensation for pain and suffer, you may wish to file a civil suit. However, neither the Victim/Witness Unit or the Spokane County Prosecuting Attorney's Office can advise you in such a matter.
Q: What is a protection order? How can I get one?
A: A protection order is an order that prohibits the respondant from contacting you. There are several kinds of protection orders, including an Order for Protection (for domestic violence cases,) No Contact Order, Restraining Order, and Anti-Harassment Order. You can apply for a protection order at the Superior Court Clerk's Office at 477-3688 or the District Court Clerk's Office at 477-4770. For more information, contact the Victim/Witness Unit, at 477-3646.
Q: How do I know when and where to go to court?
A: If you are a victim/witness to a crime and you must appear at trial, you will receive only one subpoena from the Spokane County Prosecuting Attorney's Office or another attorney in the case. The subpoena should state where and when you must appear. When you are subpoenaed for trial, you can check the trial message line at 477-2803 which is updated every Friday afternoon to see if the case is going to trial, has been continued, or has been resolved. You are normally subpoenaed to appear at the Spokane County Superior Court. DO NOT show up for court if you have not been contacted by the Deputy Prosecuting Attorney or the Victim/Witness Advocate advising you when to appear for your testimony.
The Victim/Witness Unit would be happy to answer any further questions you may have. You can contact the Victim/Witness Unit at 477-3646 or by letter.