Victim Assistance Program FAQ
- I wish for criminal charges to be filed on someone. How do I start the process?
- What happens at court hearings?
- Will I have to testify in court?
- What is a deposition?
- Will I have to see the defendant?
- I have been sent a subpoena for a deposition. What does this mean?
- I received a subpoena from the Prosecutor’s Office. What does this mean?
- Should I attend the court hearings?
- What is a No Contact Order (NCO)?
- What is a Protective Order?
- How is a Protective Order (PO) different from a No Contact Order (NCO)?
- How do I request a No Contact Order in a case where I am victim?
- Is there anyone who can help me file for a Protective Order (PO)?
- I have a Protective Order that includes my children. Who should be informed of this?
- The Judge issued a verbal No Contact Order. What does that mean?
- I have a No Contact Order/ Protective Order and I keep getting text messages and/or calls. They are not threatening, but I want them to stop. What should I do?
- Will a plea agreement be offered in my case?
- What is a Victim Impact Statement?
- When will I get to speak to the judge?
- How do I request restitution?
- For what kinds of expenses can I request restitution?
I wish for criminal charges to be filed on someone. How do I start the process?
The first step is to report the crime to your local police department. After completing the investigation, if the officer believes they have probable cause, a report will be sent to the Prosecutor’s Office. It will be reviewed and a decision will be made on what charges, if any, can be pursued under the law. The decision to file charges rests solely with the State of Indiana.
What happens at court hearings?
The first hearing is an Initial Hearing. The defendant will be brought in front of the judge and will be told his/her charges. Most defendants will plead ‘not guilty’ at this hearing. If the defendant cannot afford an attorney, the judge will determine if they are eligible for a public defender, and it will be set for another court hearing.
If the defendant is still incarcerated at their Initial Hearing, the judge will schedule a Bond Review Hearing to take place at a later date. At this hearing, the judge will hear arguments from both sides on whether or not to lower the defendant’s bond or to release them. It is completely up to the judge to decide whether or not to change a defendant’s bond.
After Initial Hearings and Bond Reviews, most cases have a number of Pretrial Conferences. A Pretrial Conference is more like a “status” hearing where the deputy prosecutor and defense attorney will exchange information. There is often a plea agreement offered to the defendant at this time. If the defendant chooses to accept a plea agreement, the case will then be scheduled for a hearing where the defendant will plead guilty. If they do not accept a plea agreement, or want more time to consider a plea agreement, it will be scheduled for another Pretrial Conference. There is not a limit on how many Pretrial Conferences a case can have.
If a defendant has accepted a plea agreement, the case will be scheduled for a Change of Plea Hearing. The defendant will go in front of the judge and admit to the crimes listed in the plea. The judge will go over the sentence listed in the plea and decide whether to accept the plea or not. If the judge accepts the plea, the defendant may be sentenced at that time, or the case may be set for a separate sentencing hearing. If the judge does not accept the plea agreement, there may be additional Pretrial Conferences.
If a plea agreement cannot be reached, the case may be scheduled for a Bench Trial or Jury Trial. If a trial is necessary, the Deputy Prosecutor and your Victim Assistant will be in touch with you to discuss the procedures.
At the time the defendant is sentenced, the victim is provided an opportunity to give a written or verbal Victim Impact Statement. This may occur at the Change of Plea Hearing, or at a Sentencing Hearing.
For cases that are level C felonies and higher, a Presentence Investigation and Report will be ordered. The judge will sentence the defendant according to the terms of the agreement or within a range of possible penalties determined by the legislature.
Click here to see the Bureau of Justice’s flow chart of the Criminal Justice System.
Will I have to testify in court?
As a victim in a criminal case, you may need to testify in court. Not all cases require that a victim testify, but all cases have the potential for needing victim testimony.
The Victim Assistants are available to help you understand the case and the likelihood of your need to testify in court. Victim Assistants can also arrange for a tour of the court room when the court is not in session to help you feel comfortable with testifying. Victim Assistants will also help prepare you for testifying by explaining procedures and answering your questions. The Court System is prepared to accommodate the needs of individuals testifying in court, including interpretation and other special requirements. To access these accommodations, ask the Victim Assistance Program for help.
There are generally* two different times that a victim may have to testify. The first one is at a deposition, and the second being a trial.
*Occasionally a victim may be asked to testify during a bond review, especially if the victim has strong feelings about whether or not the judge should lower the defendant’s bond.
What is a deposition?
A deposition is an informal proceeding in which an attorney questions a potential witness in a case. In a deposition, the witness is called the deponent and is sworn to tell the truth (by the court reporter, who is neutral) before any questions are asked. A deputy prosecutor and the defendant’s lawyer will be present.
When a deposition is taken of a victim, the defendant’s lawyer will ask questions, while the court reporter records what is said in order to prepare a written transcript. The Court Reporter later provides a written copy to the attorneys. Portions of the transcript could be used at a trial.
The purpose of a deposition is usually for the defense to find out what facts the potential witness knows, to get an idea of what sort of a witness he or she would be at trial, and also to get the witness to commit to their testimony in writing.
Depositions are not a trial, even though they may be used at trial. Depositions are informal proceedings, usually take place in the prosecutor’s office, and the judge is not present. Many topics may be covered in a deposition that will not be admissible at trial. The witness must answer all questions unless the deputy prosecutor handling the case instructs you not to answer.
After the defense attorney finishes asking questions, the deputy prosecutor will have an opportunity to ask questions. It is not uncommon for a deputy prosecutor to decide not to ask further questions in a deposition taken by the defense. The deputy prosecutor is there to protect you from improper questioning, not to help the defense prepare their case.
To learn more, visit the page on Preparing to be a Witness in Court.
Will I have to see the defendant?
Depending on your case, you may or may not have to see the defendant in court or in court-related proceedings. You may request a No Contact Order if you would like to prevent the defendant from contacting you. There are a few scenarios where you would be in the same room as the defendant. The defendant generally may not talk to you during any of these proceedings, the exception being if the defendant is representing him/herself. Baliffs are in the court room to maintain security. The defendant may be present at the deposition. You may talk to your Victim Assistant and the Deputy Prosecutor handling your case if this is uncomfortable for you, and they may be able to make arrangements that still honor the defendant’s rights and accommodate for your comfort. In the event that you testify in court, the defendant will be present. You may also be asked to identify the defendant in court.
I have been sent a subpoena for a deposition. What does this mean?
A subpoena is a court order to appear. Failure to appear could result in a warrant for your arrest. If you have received a subpoena for a deposition and you are a victim or witness in a case, you will be questioned about what you saw, heard or know about the alleged crime. You should contact your victim assistant when you receive a subpoena.
I received a subpoena from the Prosecutor’s Office. What does this mean?
Once a trial is scheduled in a case, the Prosecutor’s Office sends out subpoenas to all witnesses whose testimony will be needed at trial. A subpoena is a court order requiring a witness to appear on the date of the trial in order to testify. Contact the Prosecutor’s Office for more information about what to expect when testifying at trial.
Should I attend the court hearings?
You are welcome to attend court hearings. Court hearings are open to the public in general – with some exceptions such as juvenile proceedings. Unless you have received a subpoena to appear in court you are not required to attend the hearings. If you choose to attend, please contact your Victim Assistant the day before the hearing to confirm it is still on the schedule and if you wish to request that the Victim Assistant accompany you to court. To search the online public record click here.
What is a No Contact Order (NCO)?
In a criminal case, a judge may issue a No Contact Order, requiring that a defendant not call, write, have a third party contact, or physically contact the victim or any other party with whom the judge orders the defendant to have “no contact”. It is usually placed as a condition of bond of a defendant arrested for a violent crime. Like all other bond conditions (e.g., not violating criminal laws, not leaving the state, appearing at future court proceedings, etc.), any violation could cause the judge to revoke the bond, in which case the defendant would remain in jail until further order or the court. A judge has the discretion to issue any bond condition, as he or she sees fit. A No Contact Order stays in effect while the criminal case is pending. A No Contact Order provision may also be imposed following a conviction as part of the sentence, if the defendant is in jail or on probation.
What is a Protective Order?
A victim of domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, sexual violence or family violence may choose to request a Protective Order (PO). A PO is a separate petition filed in a civil court independent from a criminal case. A PO is filed by a Petitioner against a Respondent requesting a Judge’s Order that stops or restrains the named person from:
• contacting the Petitioner through any means (in person, by phone, by mail or e-mail, Facebook, through a third party, etc.)
• entering the Petitioner’s residence, property, or work place
• harassing, stalking, or threatening the Petitioner
Violation of a Protective Order may result in a criminal charge for Invasion of Privacy.
How is a Protective Order (PO) different from a No Contact Order (NCO)?
A Protective Order (PO) is a civil action that is separate from any criminal case. The person requesting the PO is called the Petitioner. The Prosecutor’s Office does not request Protective Orders. A Petitioner can request a protective order regardless of whether or not a criminal charge is filed.
If a criminal charge is filed, the prosecutor can request that a No Contact Order be imposed on the defendant. Both No Contact Orders and Protective Orders are Judge’s Orders that stop or restrain the named person from:
• contacting the protected person through any means (in person, by phone, by mail or e-mail, Facebook, through a third party, etc.)
• entering the protected person’s residence, property, or work place
• harassing, stalking, or threatening the protected person
How do I request a No Contact Order in a case where I am victim?
Contact your Victim Assistant caseworker if you want to request a No Contact Order in the pending criminal case. Only the Prosecutor’s Office may request a No Contact Order in a case in which criminal charges have been filed.
Is there anyone who can help me file for a Protective Order (PO)?
Click here to go to the Community Resources for Victims of Crimes page and look under the Protective Order section for a list of organizations that provide help with filing Protective Order petitions.
I have a Protective Order that includes my children. Who should be informed of this?
We encourage you to inform your children’s school, the social worker at the school and any other programs/facilities your children frequent or attend. Give a copy of the Protective Order to those institutions.
The Judge issued a verbal No Contact Order. What does that mean?
If you are aware that this has occurred, please contact the Prosecutor’s Office Victim Assistant. We will attempt to obtain a written No Contact Order in addition to the verbal order. You may also petition for a Protective Order on your own.
I have a No Contact Order/ Protective Order and I keep getting text messages and/or calls. They are not threatening, but I want them to stop. What should I do?
Call the police. Any contact, direct or indirect, is a violation of the No Contact Order or the Protective Order and may result in an additional criminal charge for Invasion of Privacy.
Will a plea agreement be offered in my case?
Most criminal cases are resolved through negotiated plea agreements. Therefore it is likely that a plea agreement will be offered. A plea agreement can hold a defendant accountable through a guilty plea and criminal conviction, while saving judicial resources, and avoiding the need for the victim or other witnesses to testify in court. As a victim, you will have the opportunity to discuss the agreement with the deputy prosecutor handling the case. The deputy prosecutor will want input from the victim as they negotiate a possible plea agreement. However, the final decision on the resolution of a case may not be delegated to the victim, but remains the responsibility of the deputy prosecutor assigned to the case.
Contact your Victim Assistant for additional information.
What is a Victim Impact Statement?
Victims have the right to make an oral or written Victim Impact Statement to the court after a defendant has been convicted, but before they are sentenced. Such statement may describe how the victim was affected by the crime emotionally, physically, and financially. Visit the Victim Impact Statements page for more information.
When will I get to speak to the judge?
If a plea agreement has been reached, you will be able to make your Victim Impact Statement at the Change of Plea Hearing, or at the Sentencing Hearing. If the case has required a trial, and the defendant has been convicted, you will have the opportunity to make your Victim Impact Statement at the Sentencing Hearing.
How do I request restitution?
If you are a victim in a pending criminal case, and have incurred losses from that incident, you can request restitution as allowed by state law. The Prosecutor’s Office can request the judge in a criminal case to order restitution for medical bills, property damage and/or loss, and insurance deductibles. The final decision to order restitution rests exclusively with the judge. Damages for “pain and suffering” or “emotional distress” cannot be ordered in criminal court. If you have a restitution request please contact your Victim Assistant.
Click here to download the Restitution Request Form.
For what kinds of expenses can I request restitution?
As part of the defendant’s sentence, and as a condition of probation, the court may order the defendant to make monetary restitution to the victim of the crime.
Under Indiana law (I.C. 35-50-5-3) the court may order restitution for:
1) Property damage of the victim incurred as a result of the crime, based on the actual cost of repair (or replacement if repair is inappropriate);
2) Medical and hospital costs incurred by the victim (before the date of sentencing) as a result of the crime;
3) The cost of medical laboratory tests to determine if the crime has caused the victim to contract a disease or other medical condition;
4) Earnings lost by the victim (before the date of sentencing) as a result of the crime including earnings lost while the victim was hospitalized or participating in the investigation or trial of the crime; and
5) Funeral, burial, or cremation costs incurred by the family or estate of a homicide victim as a result of the crime.
Although a court is limited to these kinds of losses suffered by a victim of a crime in determining the amount of restitution, a victim is still free to pursue a civil action for damages against the defendant for losses not covered by a restitution order. If you are a victim you should discuss this possibility with a private attorney.
A significant advantage of a restitution order over a civil judgment is that a restitution order in a criminal case cannot be discharged in bankruptcy.