Victim Witness Unit
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a subpoena?
If you are a victim or witness to a crime, or the parent or guardian of a child victim, you may have received a subpoena to appear in court. A subpoena is a court order directing you to appear as a witness. If your child is a victim or witness, you must bring your child to court with you. You may not ignore this court order. You are required to appear at the time and place stated on the subpoena. You may receive a subpoena by mail or in person. Please be sure to save your subpoena and bring it to court with you, as it contains important information about your case.
What is a “stand-by” notice?
If you are a victim or witness to a crime, or the parent or guardian of a child victim, you may receive a “stand-by” notice. The “stand-by” system has been established by the District Attorney’s Office for the convenience of all witnesses to remain at home, school or work until they are actually needed to testify in a criminal trial. It is important that you telephone the District Attorney’s Office immediately upon receiving your notice to leave a telephone number where you can be reached on the day of the trial. If on the date of trial you are called to testify, you will need to proceed directly to the Bucks County Courthouse and check in at the District Attorney’s booth on the fourth floor. From the District Attorney’s Booth, you will be directed to the appropriate courtroom.
Do I need to be present in court?
If you were subpoenaed to appear on the trial date (or any other court date), then you must appear and be present on the date and time reflected on the subpoena. If you received a “stand-by” notice, then you are on telephone alert but must appear if called by the District Attorney’s Office to do so. Many victims and witnesses receive a “stand-by” notice, which is explained above. If you are a victim you have the right to be present, whether you will be needed to testify or not. Moreover, most criminal court hearings are open to the public.
What is the purpose of bail?
Bail is used to ensure the defendant’s appearance in court. Bail is set by the Judge. The seriousness of the offense is only one of the factors the Judge considers when setting the amount of bail. The Judge also considers the defendant’s employment status, family ties in the community, past history of court appearances and any other factors that may indicate whether or not the defendant is likely to flee or leave the area.
Do I need an attorney?
No. The Assistant District Attorney (ADA) represents the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in prosecuting the defendant at no cost to you throughout the entire criminal process. The only time you would need an attorney is if you were to file a civil law suit against the offender.
Can I drop the charges against the offender?
No. It’s important to understand that it is the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania that has brought the charges against the offender. You do, however, have the right to speak to the Assistant District Attorney assigned to your case regarding disposition. However, the decision whether to pursue charges or not belongs solely to the District Attorney.
What if I move or change my phone number before the trial?
It is very important to keep the District Attorney’s office aware of any changes in your contact information so we can keep you informed of the status of the case. Please call the Victim/Witness Unit at (215) 348-6292 or (215) 348-6305 to report any changes.
What if the defendant or his family contacts me?
It is a crime for the defendant to harass, threaten or intimidate a victim or a witness in a criminal case. It is also a crime for the defendant or another person acting on behalf of the defendant to offer you money or some other benefit to alter your testimony or keep you from testifying. Should this occur, please contact the police department who brought the criminal charges or call the Victim/Witness Unit at (215) 348-6292 or (215) 348-6305 for assistance.
When will I get my restitution?
If the defendant is sent to prison, you may not receive any payments until after he/she is released. Once on probation or parole, the defendant will be put on a payment schedule by the Probation and Parole Department. Payments are made to the Clerk of Courts office by the defendant and the Clerk of Courts distributes the money to the victim(s). When the defendant begins to make payment, a certain amount of money is taken out for court costs and the remaining money is applied to pay restitution amounts until they are completely paid off. Generally, the defendant has the entire length of his/her sentence to repay monies owed.
Where do I park?
Parking is provided for you free of charge. The new county parking garage is located behind the Justice Center at the corner of Broad Street and Union Street. There is a shuttle which operates from 7:00 a.m. – 9:30 a.m. Monday through Friday, with the exception of county holidays. The shuttle picks up/drops off passengers at the garage top-level entrance on Union Street and between the Justice Center and the Administration Building (old Courthouse) on Main St. There is also limited handicap parking around the Courthouse. For assistance with locating a space near the courthouse, call the “Parking Accommodation Hotline” @ 215-348-6600.
What if I have a complaint about the way a criminal case was handled or think my rights have been violated?
If you have a complaint or grievance regarding rights or services provided during the prosecution of a criminal case, you can call the Victim/Witness Assistance Unit at (215) 348-6292 or (215) 348-6305 for assistance. You will be contacted by an Assistant District Attorney and may be asked to put your complaint in writing.
How do I find out if the Courthouse is open when the weather is bad?
If there is a closing or a delay in opening, it will be updated by 6:30 a.m. on the Bucks County weather hotline at (215) 340-8208.