Prosecuting Attorney's Office: Frequently Asked Questions
What is a subpoena?
How does a complaint become a criminal case?
What is a preliminary hearing?
What if the judge decides there is not sufficient evidence at the preliminary hearing?
Do cases go to always go to trial if they are not dismissed?
What happens if the case gets set for trial?
What happens in a trial?
How and when is sentencing determined?
What if I change my mind about prosecuting or testifying?
What if the defense attorney contacts me about the case?
What if someone threatens me to drop the charges?
Should I be concerned if months pass without hearing from the court or the prosecuting attorney's office?
Case flow information.
Coming to court.
Where do I park?
Can I be compensated for losses I have suffered as a victim?
Victim's Compensation Fund.
A subpoena is an official court order requiring you to appear at the time and place to provide testimony. It continues to bind you to appear at all subsequent setting until the case reaches final disposition. You should have your subpoena with you when you appear. Failure to appear constitutes contempt of court. If you should move or change your phone number, please contact the Prosecuting Attorney's office immediately. Your subpoena may give a specific time or it may direct you to call before you coming to court. Remember, we are here to help you, so be certain to let us know of any problems you may encounter. Please dress appropriately for court appearances and refrain from consuming alcohol before coming to court.
Local law enforcement officers investigate a case and, if they feel there is sufficient evidence, the application for warrant is sent to the Prosecuting Attorney's office. If after reviewing the facts, the prosecutor feels that a person should be charged with a crime, a complaint and an arrest warrant are prepared and the judicial cycle begins. The complaint is not a formal charge and in felony cases the defendant is entitled to a preliminary hearing before he/she is formally charged and becomes subject to trial. Since we do not currently have a grand jury in Jefferson County, the next step in which you may be involved is the preliminary hearing.
A preliminary hearing is held in an Associate Circuit Court. The defendant, his/her attorney and any pertinent witnesses will be present along with an assistant prosecuting attorney. A hearing will be held, unless waived (allowed to continue to the next step without requiring a hearing) by the defendant, and if sufficient evidence is presented the case proceeds to the Circuit Court for further legal proceedings. This does not mean the defendant is legally guilty. It means that they are now formally charged.
If the judge decides probable cause has not been established, the court dismisses the case. This means that all legal action has come to an end and the defendant is released. This may also occur if witnesses, such as you, fail to appear to testify in criminal cases. In such cases, the Prosecuting Attorney will decide whether to re-file the case and continue to prosecute.
Most cases are resolved without the necessity of a trial. Often there is no real question of guilt and the only question to be resolved is the amount and degree of punishment to be given. Because both the state and the defense usually have a good idea of what punishment would likely result if the case were tried, the question may be fairly resolved by a plea agreement.
A plea agreement is an agreement in which both the state and the defense agree on a suitable punishment. If the judge agrees at sentencing, the case is settled in the most efficient manner. Should the judge believe the sentence is inappropriate, however, he/she may assess a lesser punishment than the plea agreement suggested or reject the plea agreement and proceed as if an agreement had never been reached. This often means the case must go to trial. Your input is certainly welcome, but this office will make the final decision on whether a plea agreement is appropriate in a specific case. We will consider the severity of the crime, the wishes of the victim, the likelihood of success at trial and the probable punishment that would be assessed without a plea agreement.
The defense, and in rare occasions the state, may require the deposition of certain witnesses. A deposition is the recorded testimony of a witness, given under oath in the presence of the defense attorney, an assistant prosecuting attorney and often the defendant. The purpose of taking a deposition is to determine and preserve the testimony of a witness. Although it may be used in court, it cannot be used as a substitute for your personal appearance.
In a trial, the attorney from the Prosecuting Attorney's office presents the case for the state and has the burden of proving "beyond a reasonable doubt" that the defendant did commit the alleged crime. The defendant may present evidence, although he/she has no obligation to do so. Furthermore, the defendant may not be compelled to testify. He/she will, however, be present throughout the proceeding. The trial may be either before a judge or before a jury.
The judge presiding over the case sentences a defendant who has been found guilty or has plead guilty. Using state guidelines, (sentences are expressed in terms of minimums, maximums, and other options) the judge sentences the defendant in a manner appropriate to the crime and other circumstances related to the case. The defendant may be sentenced to jail, placed on probation, ordered to make restitution or ordered to pay court costs and/or a fine. Before making his decision, however, the judge will normally have the opportunity to review a Sentencing Assessment Report, which is an evaluation of the defendant prepared for the sentencing judge by the State Board of Probation and Parole. It contains a recommendation as to probation or incarceration and is an important factor in the judge's decision. You may be contacted by the Board for information in preparing the report. You may also have a chance to present either a written or oral victim impact statement at sentencing. The statement can relate only to the facts of the case and any personal injuries or financial loss incurred by the victim. A member of the immediate family of the victim may appear personally or by an attorney of their choosing to make a statement, if the victim is otherwise unable, for any reason, to appear as a result of the offense committed by the defendant.
A crime committed against any person is a crime committed against the state. Our community and each of us as individuals deserve protection against criminal wrongdoers. For this reason, the court can compel testimony of a victim or witness to a crime. A great deal of work and money will be wasted if a victim or witness does not testify. The loss of a case, simply because a victim or witness drops out, is a tragedy. Should you have any reluctance about testifying in a case, please discuss your concern with the victim/witness coordinator or the assistant prosecutor handling the case. They will try to help with any problems, doubts or questions you may have.
You may be contacted by the defense attorney or a private investigator hired by the defense attorney. You should feel free to speak with persons connected with the defendant, but you have the right to refuse to do so if you desire. If you do decide to speak to the defense attorney or a representative of that office, you may request that an attorney from this office be present while you are being questioned, and postpone any further communication with the defense until such arrangements can be made. In any event, we would appreciate your notifying us of any conversations you have with the defendant or his attorneys or representatives.
Since a threat to a witness or a victim may be itself a crime, it is unlikely anyone would make such a contact. If anyone has threatened you in connection with the case in which you are involved, either in or out of court, you should report the threat to your local police department or sheriff's office and also inform the Prosecuting Attorney's office.
Unfortunately, crowded court dockets and other delays may cause cases to drag on for what may seem an unreasonable length of time. Please realize that we are continuing to work on your case even when you aren't hearing from us and that we will do whatever we can to move your case efficiently through the system. Your patience, therefore, is greatly appreciated.
The felony case flow chart will help you better understand the criminal justice process. Possible outcomes appear in underlined, italicized type. In addition to the steps listed, a case periodically appears on an Adjourn Docket for an Announcement setting. Adjourn/Announcement settings help keep track of cases not set for a hearing, trial, etc. While you may attend any time open court is in session, you are not required to attend a proceeding unless you have been subpoenaed to appear.
If you are subpoenaed or called by the Prosecuting Attorney's office, please arrive 30 minutes before the time scheduled for the case. Please report to the Prosecuting Attorney's office as soon as you arrive. If you have trouble finding the Jefferson County Courthouse or are unavoidably delayed, call us at (636) 797-5321.
You should park on the large lot behind the Courthouse and come into the building through the large double doors nearest the parking lot. Once inside, you will find the Prosecutor's Office immediately to your right.
Your insurance company may provide coverage for your personal injury or property loss due to a crime. If your report of a crime results in the offender being placed on probation, the court may order the offender to make restitution to pay for the cost of your injuries, damages or loss. However, restitution cannot be guaranteed and may not be possible under some circumstances. The Crime Victims' Compensation Fund may cover certain out of pocket losses as a result of personal injury or death. You may also consider pursuing a civil suit to recover damages.
You may also be eligible for reimbursement of certain expenses under the Victim's Compensation Act. To be considered, you must file a claim within one year of the crime that caused the injury. The Division of Worker's Compensation will investigate and make a determination as to whether you are eligible for funds. This fund is supported with fines paid by those found guilty of crimes. Property losses are not covered!! Call the Prosecutor's Office or 1-800-347-6881 in Jefferson City for additional information.
Victims and survivors of certain violent crimes may be referred for special help, including counseling, through a joint project with the Community Mental Health Center (COMTREA) at (636) 931-2700.
Victims of other crimes who desire notification of court dates need only to furnish a written request to the Victim Services Unit in the Prosecutor's Office. This project is primarily funded with the Victim of Crime Act Funds, administered by the Missouri Department of Public Safety, Office of the Director. To find out more about any of these services or for information or referrals for family violence, call the Victim Services Unit at (636) 797-5097.
Through this project, a Victim Advocate in the Prosecutor's Office maintains regular contact with victims of violent crimes, and those who request service, ensuring that they are aware of their rights and the progress of their cases going through the criminal justice system. Victims are offered a referral to the Crime Victim Therapist for screening and professional counseling. Additional referrals and other services are provided as deemed appropriate. Through these services, the project seeks to prevent re-victimization, reduce the effects of trauma and fill a gap in services while coordinating with existing services within the community.