FAQs

FAQs

Browse All |  Ask A Question |  By Type |  By Department |  By Category |  By Topic
Results 1-18 of 18
What is the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor?
A felony is a major crime that may be punished with a minimum sentence of one-year in jail and a maximum of life imprisonment or the death penalty, depending on the severity of the crime committed. A misdemeanor is a less serious crime that is punishable by confinement in the city jail for no more that one-year, a fine of not more than $2,500, or both. Felony cases may require multiple court appearances whereas misdemeanor cases generally require a single appearance in court.
Why am I a witness if I didn't see the crime happen?
Witnesses are not limited to "eyewitnesses". Witnesses may be called because they actually saw or heard a crime occur, but they also may know something about a piece of evidence, or may possess information that contradicts another witness' testimony. You might think that what you know about the case is insignificant but sometimes small pieces of information are required to determine what really happened. If you want to know why you are testifying in a particular case, ask the prosecutor or your victim/witness assistant; there is probably a good reason. Please keep in mind that your presence and willingness to testify may be the deciding factor in determining what will be done in the case. Many defendants often hope that you or other witnesses will not show up. Sometimes your mere presence at the courthouse before the trial may be enough for the defendant to plead guilty.
What if the Defense Attorney contacts me?
In representing his/her client, a defense attorney may contact you and want to talk about the case. You may discuss the case with the defense if you wish, but you are not required to do so. Please remember that if you do choose to talk to anyone about your case, you should always request proper identification and an explanation of the interview's purpose.
I was issued a subpoena for court. What happens if I don't show up?
If you have not been excused from your court appearance by the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office, an unexcused failure to appear on your court date could result in your being fined or jailed for contempt of court. Please contact the Victim/Witness Office in advance if you cannot come to court on the date required.
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 Commonwealth's 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 confirming the days/hours when you were in court.
What is a preliminary hearing and do I need to be there?
A preliminary hearing is a legal process where the judge decides if there is enough evidence to send a defendant's charges to the Grand Jury. The judge, defendant, defendant's attorney, the prosecutor, and any necessary victims or witnesses are present at the proceeding. The prosecutor must prove to the judge that there is enough evidence to show that a crime has been committed. This involves putting on a minimal amount of evidence, in other words, enough evidence to justify further proceedings. If the prosecution establishes sufficient evidence, the case is certified to the Grand Jury.
What is an advisement date and why does the victim/witness NOT have to be present?
An advisement date is a date for the defendant to appear before a judge to be informed of any charge/charges brought against him/her and to be advised of his/her right to have a trial. The judge will also advise the defendant of the right to have an attorney, and if the defendant cannot afford to hire a lawyer, the judge will appoint one for him/her. The defendant is the only person that needs to be present for the advisement hearing. There will be NO evidence heard by the judge at this court event; therefore, the victim and/or witnesses do not need to be there.
Do I have to testify in front of the defendant?
Yes. The defendant must be present in court to hear what all witnesses have to say about him/her.
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 also witnesses. A victim/witness assistant may also be with you, at your request, for support purposes.
How long will I be in court?
Your courtroom time, actually testifying, may not take very long. Most of your time will probably be spent simply waiting for your turn to take the witness stand. You are encouraged to bring a book or magazine to read while you wait.
How do I know if my case has been "called off"?
The Victim/Witness Office will make every attempt to contact you if you do not have to attend a court event. Witnesses and other interested parties should always call 434-946-9347 during regular office hours to confirm that a case is still on the court docket.
I am a domestic violence victim. My husband promised to never lay a hand on me again. Can I drop the charges?
No, you cannot drop the charges. The only person who can request the court to drop charges is the prosecutor assigned to your case. The Amherst County Commonwealth's Attorney's Office has a no-drop policy for domestic violence cases. This is to protect you against further violence and to document the violence that has already occurred.
What if someone threatens me?
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 police department or the Victim/Witness Office. In an emergency situation, call 911. Any person who threatens or harasses you during the prosecution of a case, or even beforehand, is obstructing justice and has committed a crime, and the prosecutor handling your case should be contacted immediately.
I can't afford to pay the medical expenses that resulted from this crime. What compensation is available to me?
Victims of crime who suffer from physical injuries as a result of a crime may be eligible for state compensation to cover medical expenses, psychological counseling, partial loss of earnings, or funeral expenses. For assistance in filing your claim or to obtain a Criminal Injuries Compensation Form call the Commonwealth's Attorney's Victim/Witness office at 434-946-9347.
I am the victim in a criminal case. How do I find out who will be prosecuting my case?
If you would like to find out who will be prosecuting your case you may call the Amherst County Commonwealth's Attorney's Office (434-946-9316) and set up an appointment to talk about your case.
I feel that a crime has been committed. What should I do? Do I report the crime directly to the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office?
The appropriate law enforcement agency, not the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office, investigates crimes. If you need to report a crime in progress call 911 immediately. If you want to report a crime that has happened in the past, please call the police department or sheriff's office in your jurisdiction: Amherst County Sheriff's Office: 434-946-9300 Town of Amherst Police: 434-946-7885 Virginia State Police: 434-582-5116 It is the law enforcement agency's responsibility to investigate crime and issue any arrest warrants, if evidence suggests that a crime has been committed.
Can I talk to Mrs. Maddox? I think she is the person working on my case since her name appears on my court documents.
Mrs. Maddox is the Amherst County Commonwealth's Attorney, so her name appears on most criminal court documents as well as any correspondence from our office, however, she may not be the person handling your case. Please call our office at 434-946-9316, if you would like to know the name of the prosecutor in charge of your case. If you still have questions or concerns, you may reach Mrs. Maddox at the number listed above.
I was the victim of a crime, will a prosecutor be assigned to my case?
Prosecutors are assigned to every felony case and for misdemeanors when the defendant is represented by an attorney. If you have further questions, please contact our office.
Results 1-18 of 18