Criminal Justice System
If you are a victim or witness of crime, you will be asked to make yourself available to testify in court about the crime which involves you. Your cooperation is a very important part of bringing criminals to justice. By becoming involved as a witness, you are not only performing an important civic duty, but you are also helping to protect yourself and other innocent victims of crime. It is our hope that the following information and suggestions will help to prepare you for your experience with our criminal justice system.
Victims and witnesses are sent different types of notices depending upon the circumstances of each case. The following are the types of notices that are typically sent. Please read your notice carefully and call the Victim/Witness Coordinator at (570) 253-4912 if you have any questions or need help to understand your notice.
The “Stand-by” Notice
A standby system has been established by the District Attorney’s Office so victims and witnesses can stay at home, school or work until needed to testify in the criminal trial of someone who is accused of breaking the law in Wayne County (referred to as a defendant). If your notice tells you to “standby”, you must telephone the trial team in the District Attorney’s Office as soon as you receive your letter at (570) 253-4912 and leave a voice message with a phone number where you can be reached on the day of the trial. Be sure to also leave your name and the case number in your message. Your contact information will be given to the Assistant District Attorney (ADA) and Victim/Witness Coordinator when the case is assigned.
Central Court Notice
After defendants are charged with a crime, the case is scheduled for Central Court. At the Central Court, the defendant will typically have three (3) options.
The first option will be to waive their preliminary hearing and request a trial. If the defendant requests a trial, the case will be rescheduled to a trial date and the victim will receive a “must appear” notice/subpoena. No one will need to testify if the defendant pleads guilty, but victims may still be present and may have an opportunity to give an Impact Statement if they want to.
The second option is to request a preliminary hearing. If the defendant requests a preliminary hearing, the case will be rescheduled to a hearing date and the victim will receive a “must appear” notice/subpoena. No one will need to testify if the defendant waives his preliminary hearing and the case will be rescheduled to a trial date as explained in the first option above.
In some circumstances, the third option is to plead guilty to certain charge(s) against them and be sentenced for the offense(s). These charges are low level charges graded as Misdemeanor of the Third Degree or Summary Offenses.
At any point in the proceedings, victims who want to submit an Impact Statement and/or be present at a particular court date must contact the Victim/Witness Coordinator in the District Attorney’s Office by calling (570) 253-4912.
ARD Court Notice
Some defendants apply for a program called “Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition” (ARD). This program is for first time, non-violent offenders. The District Attorney’s Office decides if a defendant will be accepted into the program after reviewing the application and speaking with the victim(s) in the case. If approved, the case will be scheduled for ARD Court. If the defendant complies with all of the conditions of the ARD agreement, the criminal record may be expunged (erased). If you are a victim and would like more information about the program, please call (570) 253-4912, and ask to speak with the Victim/Witness Coordinator. Victims may also ask to speak with an Assistant District Attorney to provide input about the decision to approve a defendant for the program.