WHAT IS A CRIME?
A crime is an offense that is defined by the laws of New York State. Crimes can involve acts of violence, theft of property, or possession of contraband such as drugs. Not every crime has an identifiable victim--many do. In all cases, the definition of a crime depends on laws enacted by the New York State Legislature.
WHAT DO I DO IF I AM THE VICTIM OF A CRIME?
The first concern after a crime must always be physical safety. Get help if someone is hurt. The police should be summoned at the earliest opportunity. A Police Officer is in the best position to help you and to assure that the criminal investigation is conducted properly. The Police are specially trained to gather evidence. It is vital that evidence be gathered at the earliest chance to maximize the likelihood that an offender will be held accountable for the criminal acts.
WHAT DO I DO IF I WITNESS A CRIME?
If you see a crime committed, you should call the police. Your assistance is important and can make a difference in the outcome of the case.
WHAT SHOULD I EXPECT AFTER THE POLICE BECOME INVOLVED?
The police officers will conduct a criminal investigation which may involve collecting physical evidence and speaking with victims and other witnesses. They will seek to identify and locate the person or persons who committed the crime. The evidence that they gather will be used during the prosecution. The District Attorney's staff serves as the legal advisors to the police officers during the investigation and will appear in Court once a person has been charged with committing a crime.
HOW DOES THE COURT PROCESS WORK?
When a person has been charged with a crime, he or she is taken before a court and the judge will tell them what crime or crimes they have been accused of committing. That procedure is called an arraignment. Depending on the nature and level of the crime, the next step may involve either a hearing before the local court or a Grand Jury presentation. In both of those instances, the District Attorney's Office will appear in Court with victims and/or witnesses. In Dutchess County, generally the same Assistant District Attorney will handle the case from the beginning to the end. They will explain the process to the witnesses and victims in detail as the process unfolds. The majority of cases do not actually reach trial. However, in all cases, the Assistant District Attorney should seek input from the victims as to the resolution of the case. Where a case goes to trial, the victims and witnesses should expect to meet with the Assistant District Attorney. The Assistant District Attorney will be available to answer any individual questions that may arise in the case. In addition, you may be referred to a Crime Victims Service Agency. The District Attorney's Office welcomes the involvement of advocates who can, in many cases, be of great emotional support and assistance to victims of crimes. In many cases, it will not be necessary for you to actually go to court and testify. However, it is always important for the Assistant District Attorney assigned to a case to speak with you and to know what it is that you know about a case. Where you are actually the victim of a crime, the Assistant District Attorney will seek your input in the resolution of the case. He or she will need to know if you seek restitution or have expenses caused as a result of the offender's actions. The District Attorney's Office will make every effort to obtain restitution in your behalf.
WHAT RIGHTS DO I HAVE AS A VICTIM OR WITNESS?
As a victim or witness to a crime, you have the right to be treated fairly and with dignity. You have the right to have your questions answered and, in some cases, if you are the victim yourself, you have the right to actually speak before the Court and to convey your feelings about what happened to you. As members of our community, we all have a civic duty to ourselves and our neighbors to assure that justice is done. To that end, it is the duty of all of us to cooperate with the criminal justice system and to disclose what knowledge we have about any particular crime. The law provides that no person may be penalized by their employer for complying with a subpoena to testify about a case. The District Attorney's Office will endeavor to explain your rights to you more fully in the event you find yourself involved in a criminal case as either a victim or a witness.
The Following Information is Provided in Compliance with Article 23 of the Executive Law: Your Rights as a Crime Victim