Q: Can I find out if the defendant has been released from jail?
Yes, call the VINE system at 1-800-467-4941 or go to http://www.vinelink.com/, or call the Gwinnett County Detention Center at 770-619-6500.
Q: What are my rights as the victim in a criminal case?
Once the case is opened in the Solicitor’s Office, you will receive a Victim Rights Notification which explains these rights and provides information regarding who to contact to discuss the case. Once the case is assigned to one of our six prosecuting divisions, another letter will be sent to you by the Victim Witness Coordinator (VWC) assigned to the case with his or her telephone number and other contact information. Crime Victim Bill of Rights.
Q: As the named victim in a case can I drop the charges?
Since the case involves criminal charges and is being prosecuted in State Court, only a State Court Prosecutor can dismiss charges. However, the concerns of the named victims are very important to us, and we invite them to write a statement addressing any underlying issues which may have contributed to the incident, and expressing their opinions about both the prosecution of the case and any sentencing that may occur.
Q: Will I be contacted by the attorney and/or investigator for the defendant and do I have to speak with them?
Defense attorneys or their investigators may try to contact the victims or witnesses to take statements. As a victim or witness you can choose whether or not to speak with them.
Q: What if the defendant or someone else threatens me?
If you have any fears or receive any threats concerning your involvement in a case, you should immediately contact the law enforcement agency that investigated the case, or the Gwinnett Solicitor’s Office. In an emergency situation, call 911. Do so as soon as possible so that the threats can be documented and appropriate action taken. There are laws to protect you against people who attempt to bribe, intimidate, threaten or harass you.
Q: Will I be able to talk to the prosecutor before I testify?
Many cases that are put on a jury trial calendar are eventually resolved through negotiations between the prosecutor (Assistant Solicitor) and the defense without having to go to trial. If the case does go to trial, the prosecutor and VWC assigned to the case will meet with you to address your concerns and explain the trial process.
Q: Do I have to go to court?
If you have been subpoenaed, you have to show up for court. A subpoena is a court order which requires you to appear at the time and place stated. Call the Victim Witness Coordinator assigned to your case with any questions you have about testifying and/or your unavailability during the time period specified in your subpoena.
Q: Do I have to testify in front of the defendant? Can I just submit a statement?
In criminal court the defendant must be present to hear what all the witnesses say about him and the incident in question. In addition, the defendant’s attorney has the right to ask you questions after the Assistant Solicitor does so. Your presence and willingness to testify may be the deciding factor in determining what will be done in the case. Many defendants hope that you or other witnesses will not show up. Your mere presence at the courthouse before the trial may cause the defendant to plead guilty.
Q: What if my school or employer won’t let me come?
If you are lawfully subpoenaed to court, a school official or employer cannot prevent court attendance. The Solicitor’s Office can provide you with a note, on our letterhead, confirming the days/hours when you were in court.
Q: Do I need an attorney?
You do not need an attorney as you are not the individual charged with a crime. The State is bringing charges against the defendant and prosecuting the case, and you are a witness for the case. Please keep in mind that no employee of the Solicitor’s Office can provide you with legal advice.
Q: What if I need an interpreter?
Contact the VWC assigned to your case if you require the services of an interpreter, and one will be provided.
Q: What is restitution?
When the court orders the defendant to pay restitution, it is ordering him or her to reimburse the victim for expenses or damages that resulted from the commission of the crime. Inform the Solicitor’s Office if you would like to request that the Judge who sentences the defendant also orders him or her to reimburse you for expenses you have incurred by way of personal injury or property loss suffered as a result of the crime. Please note, however, that not all losses can be addressed through the defendant’s sentence. You can also seek the advice of a civil attorney to attempt to regain your losses.
Q: What is victim compensation?
The Criminal Justice Coordinating Council administers the Georgia Crime Victims Compensation Program to assist victims and their families through the emotional and physical aftermath of a crime by providing financial benefits for expenses such as medical bills, loss of earnings, funeral expenses, mental health counseling, and crime scene clean-up. For more information about this program or to find out if you are eligible for benefits, you can go to the CJCC website at http://www.cjcc.ga.gov/, or you can call them at 404-657-1956.
Q: Can I be reimbursed or compensated for my time and travel if I have to come to court?
Contact the VWC assigned to your case if you have problems regarding transportation to court and live locally; transportation may be able to be arranged. However, the Gwinnett County Solicitor’s Office cannot generally reimburse witnesses for travel expenses or lost wages.