Q - I want a protection
order to keep my husband [or wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, or other person]
away from me. Will the Prosecuting Attorneys Office do this for
A- Advocates are
available to answer questions you may have in this regard.
Q - I feel that a
crime has been committed. How do I press charges? May I report a crime
directly to the Prosecuting Attorneys Office?
A - In most cases,
crimes must be reported to the police department or other law enforcement
agency which has jurisdiction over the city or county where the crime
occurred. For example, if the crime occurred inside the city limits
of Mount Vernon, it should be reported to the Mount Vernon Police Department.
If the crime was committed in any unincorporated area of Skagit County,
or in an area where the Skagit County Sheriff is the contracting law
enforcement agency (e.g., ), the crime should be reported to the Skagit
County Sheriffs Office. The law enforcement agency then conducts
an investigation. When the investigation is complete, they forward their
report to our office in the form of a referral. The Prosecutor reviews
the case and makes a determination as to whether or not a crime has
been committed. Charges are filed or the case is declined for further
investigation or lack of evidence.
Q - I am a victim
in a criminal case and I want to drop charges. Can I do that?
A - The charging
decision in any criminal case rests solely with the prosecutor. The
victim's wishes alone will not dictate whether or not a case will be
filed or dismissed.
Q - I was the victim
of a crime. Can you tell me the name of the defendant and the defendants
next court date?
A - The Prosecuting
Attorneys Office can provide you with the name of the adult defendant
and the next court date if charges against the defendant have been filed.
To obtain this information, call the Prosecutors office at (360)
416-1600. You may be asked several questions in order to verify the
specific case you are looking for. You will also be asked to confirm
or update your address and phone number. For district or municipal court
dates, you can try this link with the defendants name: http://dw.courts.wa.gov/index.cfm?fa=home.home
Q - What is the status
of my case?
A - You can determine
the status of a case by calling the Prosecuting Attorneys Office
at (360) 416-1600. You will be asked several questions to determine
your relationship to a current or past case. We can tell you whether
a case is open, closed, pending (i.e. waiting for a prosecutor to review
it for charges) or in bench warrant status. We can also inform you of
upcoming court dates. It is important that you update your address and
contact information when you call so that our database is current.
Q - Is the prosecutor
A - No. The Prosecuting
Attorney and his deputies represent the State of Washington in criminal
cases. As a victim or witness, you participate in the process by your
truthful statements and testimony to help prove the elements of the
crime which the Prosecuting Attorney has charged.
Q - What is a pre-trial
A - A pre-trial
interview is an informal meeting between a victim or witness and the
prosecutor and/or defense attorney for any given case. The prosecutor
often chooses to talk or meet with victims or witnesses while considering
alternatives for case disposition or preparing for trial. Defense counsel
will often seek to talk with victims or witnesses in order to determine
what the nature of their trial testimony will be.
Q - How do I find
out if a person charged with a crime is still in jail?
A - The Skagit County
Jail has an interactive jail roster available on the Internet at www.skagitcounty.net/jail/HTML/jailroster.xml.
Inmates are listed by name. Specific information can be obtained by
clicking on an inmates name.
Q - Is there a way
to be notified when a person is released from jail?
A - If you would
like to be notified when a person is released from jail, you should
sign up with the Washington Statewide Information and Notification System.
This is more commonly referred to as the VINE system. You can register
to be notified at www.vinelink.com or 1-877-846-3492. You will be asked
to provide the offenders name, contact information and a PIN number.
You can choose any PIN number, but please remember to pick one that
is easy for you to remember. When an offender is released you will be
notified by phone or email. Phone notification repeats for a period
of time or until a PIN code is entered. This is an automated system
that is regularly adding detention facilities to its database.
Q - Why does this
case keep getting continued?
A - It is not uncommon
for cases to be continued several times throughout the course of prosecution.
Some cases can take up to a year or longer to bring to resolution. The
judge may grant continuances, or delays, at the request of the defense
or the prosecution. Some of these continuances are granted over objections
raised by opposing counsel.
Listed below are
some reasons that might force a case to be continued:
- Attorneys, law
enforcement personnel, or expert witnesses are unavailable on the original
trial date set by the court
- Lab results are
- Negotiations and
interviews are still taking place
- Defense has not
concluded their investigation
- Health issues that
might keep a defendant from appearing in court
- Courtrooms are
already scheduled for other matters
- Miscellaneous motions
before the court
- Determination and
Location of key witnesses
- Changes in representation
This is not a complete
list, but does show several of the factors involved in taking a case to
Q - Why am I a witness?
I didnt see the crime occur.
A - Witnesses often
provide important information even though they may not have seen the
crime. If you wonder "why" you are a potential witness, ask
the prosecutor handling the case.
Q - If I am subpoenaed
to testify, do I have to talk in front of the defendant in court?
A - Yes. The defendant
must be present in court to hear testimony from all the witnesses. The
lawyer for the defendant will ask you questions after the prosecutor
Q - I made a written
statement; why do I have to testify?
A - The Defendant
has a constitutional right to hear what you have to say in open court.
Q - Who will be with
me in court?
A - You may bring
friends or relatives with you to court, and they can probably sit in
the courtroom while you testify, unless they are also witnesses. Witnesses
testify one at a time and generally wait outside the courtroom for their
turn. Our Victim/Witness Advocate may also be with you in court in some
Q - What do I do if
I cant attend court as a witness on the date stated in the subpoena?
A - If you have
a conflict, you should contact the Prosecutors Office immediately
to discuss your conflict. We will attempt to work with you and your
schedule, as much as possible.
Q - Does the County
reimburse me for wages lost when I am a witness?
A - You are entitled
to a nominal witness fee and payment for mileage if you drive to court.
You will need to sign in at the Skagit County Clerks Office immediately
before or after your scheduled testimony. The Clerks Office will
tally your fee and send you a check in the mail within a few weeks.
Q - Where do I park
as a witness in a criminal case?
A - There are several
places to park surrounding the main courthouse complex. There is a parking
lot directly behind the main courthouse and another just north of the
Prosecutors Office. We suggest you park inside a parking lot to
avoid being ticketed on the street.
Q - How long will
I be in court as a witness?
A - Your courtroom
time, while actually testifying, may not take long; it depends on many
factors. Most of the time you will just be waiting for your turn to
testify. We try to schedule testimony so that your wait is limited,
but previous testimony or unexpected motions can change the schedule
after you arrive. You and your family and friends are encouraged to
bring a book or magazine to read while you wait.
Q - An investigator
for the defendant wants to interview me. Can I refuse?
A - The defendants
lawyer or an investigator may contact you. Defense counsel has the right
to interview witnesses prior to trial. The purpose of a defense interview
is to determine the nature of trial testimony. You may speak with the
defense without the prosecutor present. You may refuse the interview,
although that may prompt a court order for a formal deposition. The
decision is completely up to you. We suggest that you always know the
identity of the person to whom you are speaking. Ask for identification.
If you are not sure to whom you are speaking, ask for their name and
phone number and call our office and speak with a Victim Witness Advocate
at (360) 416-1600 for assistance. If you wish the prosecutor to be present
you may request that defense contact our office to set an interview
for them. Our office will then set a time where a pretrial interview
can take place in our office and a prosecutor will be present during
Q - What if I have
to testify as a witness in a criminal case?
A - IF YOU HAVE
Tell the truth!
This is the single most important advice any witness should remember.
Dress neatly! A neat appearance and proper dress in court give an important
first, and lasting, impression. Think about the incident, relax ...
speak clearly! You have nothing to fear when giving true answers. When
you are asked questions, give your answer as clearly as possible.
Q - How do I get reimbursement
for the losses/damages I sustained as a victim of crime?
A - Compensation
by the State:
If you have suffered
a loss that is medical in nature, or wages lost because of a physical
injury, and if these injuries are the result of criminal activity, then
you may be eligible for compensation through the Crime Victims Compensation
Program. This program is run by the State of Washington. It is not a
requirement of the program that the offender be criminally convicted,
or even criminally charged. The application for compensation is available
online at http://www.lni.wa.gov/ClaimsIns/CrimeVictims/About/default.asp.
You may also pick up an application at our office. A victim witness
advocate will assist you in filling it out.
In order to receive
restitution from the Court, the offender must be charged and convicted
of the crime which resulted in your loss. The statue which authorizes
restitution states that restitution must be based on easily ascertainable
damages for injury to or loss of property, actual expenses incurred for
treatment for injury to persons, and lost wages resulting from injury.
Restitution shall not include reimbursement for damages for mental anguish,
pain and suffering, or other intangible losses, but may include the costs
of counseling reasonably related to the offense.
Restitution is determined
by the Court based on information provided by the prosecutor and by the
defendant. If you are seeking restitution, it is essential that you provide
proof of loss to the prosecutors office. Proof of loss may be established
by documentation which may include a Victim Loss Statement with receipts,
estimates, bills, pictures, comparison price quotes, etc. There are time
limitations on the Court in ordering restitution, so you should submit
your claim as soon as possible. You may be required to testify in a restitution
hearing to prove your claim.
Once restitution is
ordered by the Court, the responsibility for collecting payments from
the defendant belongs to the Skagit County Clerk or the Department of
Corrections. The defendant is required to make payments on restitution
to the Skagit County Clerk. The Clerk will mail the payment to you. It
is important for you to maintain current mailing information with the