The Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney´s office maintains a Victim/Witness Unit which provides advocacy services for crime victims and facilitates the testimony of crime victims and witnesses in accordance with the Constitutional and the Victims Bill of Rights. The program provides assistance in applying for victim's compensation, determining restitution in adult and juvenile felony cases, providing case status information to victims and educating victims and witnesses about the criminal justice system, as well as acting as a referral resource for other agencies. This program does not pay for damages to property or for thefts. If you were the victim of a crime, contact 360-417-2301.
Crime Victims Bill of Rights
According to Washington State law, victims have the following rights:
- Victims of violent or sex crimes are entitled to receive, at the time of reporting the crime to law enforcement officials, a written statement of the rights of crime victims;
- To be informed of the finals disposition of a case;
- To be informed of changes in court dates to which you have been subpoenaed;
- To receive protection from harm and threats of harm arising out of cooperation with law enforcement and prosecution;
- To receive any witness fees to which you are entitled;
- To have, whenever practical a secure waiting area provided for you during court proceedings;
- To have any stolen property or other personal property returned as soon a possible after completion of a case;
- To have your employer contacted to minimize any problems when you appear in court;
- Access to immediate medical assistance without unreasonable delay;
- Victims of violent and sex crimes may have a crime victim advocate from a crime victim/witness program present at any prosecutorial or defense interviews with the victim unless it is impractical or the presence of the crime victim advocate would cause an unnecessary delay in the investigation or prosecution of the case. The role of the crime victim advocate is to provide emotional support to the crime victim;
- As a victim or survivor of a victim, to be present in court during trial if you testimony has been given and no further testimony is required;
- As a victim or survivor of a victim, to be informed by the Prosecuting Attorney of the date, time and location of the trial and if requested, of the sentencing hearing when there is a felony conviction;
- To submit a victim impact statement to the court, which shall be included in the presentence report and made part of the offender’s file;
- As a victim or survivor of a victim, to present a statement personally, or by representation, at the sentencing hearing when there is a felony conviction;
- As a victim or survivor of a victim, to have restitution ordered when there is a felony conviction, unless the court judges this to be inappropriate.
If you have to testify
Tell the truth. This is the single most important advice any witness should remember.
Dress neatly. A neat appearance and proper attire in court give an important first and lasting impression.
Conduct yourself in a dignified manner. The trial of a criminal case is a serious matter.
Be prepared. You should know days ahead of time that you will be testifying in court. Think about the incident and what happened so that you can recall the details accurately when you are asked in court. If you need help remembering these details, write the facts down. If you have already written a statement for the police, ask the Deputy Prosecutor for a copy; reading it may jog your memory on some details.
Do not try to memorize what you will say in court. Jurors are hesitant to believe testimony that sounds "scripted". Also, the lawyers' questions may not coincide with your expected answers.
Stick to the facts. The Judge and jury only want to hear the facts as you know them to be, not what someone else told you.
Relax ... speak clearly. You have nothing to fear when giving true answers. When you are asked questions, give your answer as clearly as possible.
Expect to be questioned by several people. One of the basic rules in a criminal case is that both sides have a chance to question every witness. Questions asked by both sides have the same goal --- to find out what is true.
Do not lose your temper. Be courteous. Don't let the defense lawyer upset you. It may seem at times that he is trying to pin you down, but he has the right to test how many of the facts you know and accurately remember.
Don't start to answer a question until the question is finished. If you haven't heard the entire question, you don't know what you're being asked. Don't "jump the gun" by answering what you think the question will be.
Think about your answer before you give it. Your every word counts. Be descriptive. Be accurate. Vague or inconsistent responses give other people a chance to (mis)interpret what you meant your answer to be.
Answer all questions to the point. If the question calls for a short answer, give a short answer; if you need to explain, explain.
Answer only the question asked. Do not volunteer additional information.
Don't exaggerate or guess! If you don't know the answer to a question, say so --- If you don't remember the information that you are asked about, say so.
Answer the questions verbally. Your testimony is being recorded (either tape recorded or written down). Do not use head shakes, head nods, or "uh-huh". Answer with a "yes" or "no".
Look at the jurors and speak to them when testifying. Jurors consider attitude, facial expressions, and body language when evaluating testimony.
If you don't understand or didn't hear the question, ask that it be explained or repeated.
If your answer was not correctly stated, correct it immediately.
Never attempt to talk to a juror about the case or any other matter while the case is being tried. This includes chance meetings during recesses, in hallways, at lunch, or any other place.
If either lawyer raises an objection, stop speaking at once. After the Judge has ruled, you will be instructed whether to continue.
The Prosecuting Attorney's Office will assist you with any questions you may have prior to your court appearance.
Witness FAQ's (Frequently Asked Questions)
Can I drop the charges?
No. The State of Washington has charged the defendant with a crime, not you. As you have not charged the crime, you cannot drop the charges. Reporting a crime is not the same as charging a crime.
Why am I a witness? I didn't see the crime occur.
Witnesses are not limited to "eye witnesses". You may have seen or heard the crime happen or may know something about it. You may also know something about a piece of evidence, or may know something that contradicts another witness' testimony.
You may not think that what you know about the case is very significant; however, small pieces of information are often required to determine what really happened. If you wonder "why" you are testifying in a particular case, ask the Victim Witness Assistant.
What if someone threatens me?
In an emergency situation, call 911. Concerns about your well-being and safety after being victimized or witnessing a crime are normal. If you have any fears or receive any threats concerning your involvement in a case, you should immediately contact the law enforcement agency that investigated the case, or the Prosecuting Attorney's Office. Do so as soon as possible so that the threats can be documented and appropriate action taken. There are laws to protect you against people who attempt to bribe, intimidate, threaten, or harass you.
What if the defense attorney contacts me?
In representing a client, a defense attorney may contact you and want to talk to you about the case. Keep in mind that you do not have to talk to anyone about the crime, including the defense attorney or their investigator prior to testifying in court. If you choose to do so, always request proper identification and an explanation of the purpose of the interview. If you have any concerns about talking with a defense attorney or their investigator, you are encouraged to contact the Victim Witness Assistant.
Do I have to testify in front of the defendant?
The defendant must be present in court to hear what witnesses say about him/her. The lawyer for the defendant is called the defense attorney and will ask you questions after the Deputy Prosecuting Attorney.
Who will be with me in court?
You may bring friends or relatives with you to court, and they can probably sit in the courtroom while you testify, unless they are witnesses. Witnesses testify one at a time and generally wait outside the courtroom for their turn. Our Victim/Witness Assistant may also be with you, if you request.
How long will I be at court?
Your actual testimony may not take long; it depends upon many factors. Most of the time you will just be waiting for your turn to testify. You and your family/friends are encouraged to bring a book or magazine to read while you wait. Coloring books, quiet games and a snack would be appropriate for children waiting to testify.
How many times will I have to appear in court?
The process of justice takes time. The number of times you may be called to appear in court and the delays are the result of many factors, including pre-trial motions or other scheduled events with your case, or congestion on the judge's court calendar.
In general, your first and only appearance will be for the actual trial. On rare occasions, pre-trial motions by the defense attorney or by the prosecuting attorney may require additional hearings before the trial begins, which may require witness testimony.
What if my employer won't let me come to court?
If you are lawfully subpoenaed to court, an employer cannot prevent court attendance. When appropriate, the Prosecuting Attorney's Office will contact your employer to discuss the importance of your role as a witness. We can also provide you with a note, on our letterhead, confirming the days/hours when you were in court.
What if I can't attend on the date stated in the subpoena?
If you have a date conflict, you should contact our Victim Witness Assistant at 360-417-2587 immediately to discuss your conflict. In some cases, the Deputy Prosecuting Attorney handling the case can put you "on call" (so that you can go to work or school on the day you are subpoenaed, and you will be called at a pre-arranged phone number an hour or so before you are needed in court).
How do I know if my case has been "called off"?
I was subpoenaed by the defendant, not the prosecutor. Does this change anything?
Our Witness Assistance Unit helps the witnesses that the Prosecuting Attorney's office subpoenas to court, not witnesses whom the defendant subpoenas.
What if I need an interpreter?
Foreign language interpreters and interpreters for the hearing and/or speech impaired are available. If you are in need of interpreting services while in attendance at court, contact the Victim/Witness Assistant as soon as possible.
Child Victim–Witness Bill of Rights
- An easily understood explanation of proceedings and investigations in which the child may be involved;
- Child victims of sex or violent crimes or child abuse, may have a crime victim advocate from a crime victim/witness program present at any prosecutorial or defense interviews with the victim unless it is impractical or the presence of the crime victim advocate would cause an unnecessary delay in the investigation or prosecution of the case. The role of the crime victim advocate is to provide emotional support to the child victim and to promote the child’s feelings of security and safety;
- A secure waiting area during court proceeding with an advocate or support person before, during and afterward;
- Freedom from publicity of name, address, or photograph of the child victim-witness without consent except to appropriate agencies;
- The advocate or support person shall be allowed to make recommendations to the prosecuting attorney and the court regarding the child’s ability to cooperate with prosecution, and the effect of the proceedings on the child;
- To allow an advocate to provide information to the court concerning the child’s ability to understand the nature of the proceedings;
- Referral to an appropriate social service agency to assist the child and family in managing the effects of crime, its investigation or proceedings;
- The presence of an advocate for the child in court in order to provide emotional support to the child;
- To provide information to the court as to the need for the presence of other supportive persons at the court proceedings while the child testifies in order to promote the child’s feelings of security and safety;
- To allow law enforcement to enlist support of other professional persons trained in interviewing children;
- Child victims of violent or sex crimes or child abuse, shall receive either directly or through the child’s parent or guardian, if appropriate at the time of reporting the crime to law enforcement officials, a written statement of the rights of child victims as provided in this chapter. The written statement shall include name, address, and telephone number of a county or local crime victim/witness program, if such a program exists in the county.