District Attorney Victim/Witness

Find questions and answers regarding many different topics here.

The Franklin County District Attorney’s Office, in conjunction with Women In Need has made available assistance through Victim Witness Services located in the District Attorney’s Office. Members of Victim Witness Services are available to assist victims and witnesses of various types of crimes. They are available to provide information about the court process and what to expect. Members of Victim Witness Services may accompany victims and witnesses to court appearances. They are available to answer questions and provide assistance with filing claims to the Victim Compensation Assistance Program (VCAP) and registration with the Statewide Automated Victim Information and Notification System (SAVIN). Victim Witness Services is available to assist in any way they can and are available should you have any questions.

No, the Franklin County District Attorney’s Office is not permitted to assist with the filing of petition for a Protection from Abuse Order. Please click on the "Protection From Abuse" link provided on the Help for Victims and Witnesses page.

In most cases, crimes must be reported to the appropriate Police Department, or other law enforcement agency which has jurisdiction over area where the crime occurred. For example, if the crime occurred in Chambersburg, it should be reported to the Chambersburg Police Department. If the crime was committed in any area that does not have a local law enforcement agency the crime should be reported to the Pennsylvania State Police.

No. It is important to understand that the whole community has a stake in the prosecuting of wrongdoers. It is the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania that has brought the charges against the offender, and it is not in your power to "drop the charges." You do, however, have a right to speak to the prosecuting attorney regarding your desire to drop the charges. If you are experiencing anxiety about testifying, please discuss your concerns with the Victim Witness Advocate who will try to help with problems, doubts or questions you may be having.

If the defendant is convicted of the crime, and in some other special dispositions, the court can order the defendant to pay restitution. Restitution is money equal to the victim’s loss and typically includes cost of destroyed, lost, or damaged property and medical bills.
Some types of loss, such as pain and suffering, are usually not awarded as restitution. You should contact a non-government attorney if you want help obtaining pain and suffering damages.
In addition, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has a program called the Victim Compensation Assistance Program (VCAP). VCAP is available to victims of crime who meet certain requirements and may be acquired to assist with payment of medical bills, counseling, lost pay, funeral costs, child care, stolen cash, and other costs that are a direct result of a crime. VCAP does not cover all costs and is available only after approval upon proper application.
Here is the link for VCAP.       Victims Compensation Assistance Program

If the court ordered the defendant to pay restitution to you, but you are not getting money, it could be because the defendant is still in jail or prison, or the defendant is not making any money to pay to the court, or the defendant isn’t paying for some other reason. You may have to wait a long while for money. If you are not receiving your restitution you should contact that Clerk’s office to make sure it has your correct address. If the defendant has probation, you can also call the Franklin County Probation Department’s Payment Division at 717-264-8413.

The District Attorney’s Office can give you the name of an adult defendant and the next court date if we have filed charges against the defendant.

You should receive some information from someone in our office. If not, or if you want more information, please call the Victim Witness Services Office or the Franklin County District Attorney’s Office. The office telephone numbers and addresses are provided in the "Other Helpful Links" page.

No. We can help by giving victims and witnesses the names and telephone numbers of both government and non-government organizations that can provide other types of aid, but we cannot promise security.

No. The prosecuting attorney represents the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, not individual persons or businesses. The prosecutor will listen to your concerns and take into consideration your wishes. However, the prosecutor must weigh all the aspects of the case when making the final determination.

Witnesses are not only "eye witnesses." You may have seen 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's testimony. If you wonder why you are testifying in a particular case, ask the prosecutor handling it; there is probably a common-sense reason.

For information on parking, click here. Parking lots located furthest from the Franklin County Courthouse, as shown on the map, are an estimaged 8-10 minute walk. Please plan accordingly and arrive to court with enough time to find parking and to make it through security.

Women should wear a dress or slacks with a nice top. Men should wear dress pants and a dress shirt. Nice jeans without holes are also OK. Please do not wear dirty, ripped, or stained clothing. Please do not wear clothing with inappropriate images or slogans. As a victim/witness your appearance is very important.

Yes, the defendant has a constitutional right to be present in court to hear what all the witnesses say.

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. In some cases, a Victim/Witness Advocate from the Victim Witness Services office may also be with you, if you request.

Your time at court varies greatly from case to case. Some witnesses will be at the courthouse for more than a day. You are encouraged to bring a book or magazine to read while you wait.

If you are a victim of crime or a witness to a crime, you will receive a subpoena. A subpoena is an order directing you to appear as a witness in court. You may not ignore such an order - you will be required to appear at the time and place stated on the subpoena. The subpoena may be delivered through the mail or in person. Please notify the District Attorney’s Office upon receipt of the subpoena.

Look at the text of the subpoena. There should be the name and telephone number of the person you should call as soon as you are aware of the conflict. We will try to work with your schedule to the best of our ability. However, please remember that if you receive a subpoena, you must appear in court. Failure to do so could result in being held in contempt of court.

The judge, the defendant, the defendant’s attorney, you the victim, witnesses and the Assistant District Attorney in the case will be present in the courtroom. When you are called to testify you will be sworn to tell the truth. The Assistant District Attorney will ask you what you know about the case. When questioning is complete, the defendant’s attorney will then ask you questions about the case. The judge will only want to hear the facts pertaining to this particular case. Usually, witnesses (including the crime victim) will be directed to leave the courtroom during the testimony of other witnesses.

Each case is different. Many factors go into whether or not a case will go to trial and when. It is important for you to stay in contact with the Victim Witness Advocate who will work closely with the prosecuting attorney and can speak with the prosecutor to find out what factors may delay a case from going to trial.

Most victims and witnesses of crime never have this problem, however, if the defendant or anyone else threatens you or attempts to intimidate you, notify your local police department immediately and notify the Victim Witnesses Advocate. Criminal charges may be brought against the person making the threat, and if it is the defendant that threatens you his/her bail may be revoked.

Before speaking to anyone about the case, you should ask to see the person’s identification. You are under no obligation to talk to anyone. You have the right to refuse to discuss the case with the defense attorney or you may agree to speak with him/her only in the presence of the District Attorney. The only time you have to speak to a defense attorney is during a hearing or trial when you are under oath. You should report all contacts to the District Attorney’s office.

No. You do not have to talk to the media. It is important to understand however that the media has the right to be in and around the courtroom. If you are approached, you may tell them that you have no comment and they will respect that. However, keep in mind that you may still be filmed or photographed. Speak with the Victim Witness Advocate if you have a strong desire not to be approached or filmed.

The police department may hold your property as evidence in the case. In some cases, it can be photographed and returned to you by the police. In this case, the District Attorney may ask you to bring the property to court with you later for use in the trial. Please remember that sometimes items must be held as evidence for trial and it may take some time before it can be returned to you.

Bail is used to ensure the defendant’s appearance in court. Bail is set by a Magisterial District Judge at the time of the preliminary arraignment or preliminary hearing. The seriousness of the crime is only one of the factors considered when setting bail. Also considered is the status of the defendant’s employment, family, age, residence and any other factors relevant to the defendant’s release when money, property or bond is posted for bail. If bail is not posted, the defendant will remain in custody until able to post bail.

A.R.D. stands for Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition. Cases involving less serious offenses and defendants with very little or no criminal record are routinely placed in the A.R.D. program. Defendants placed into the program must agree to a probationary sentence with conditions imposed by the judge such as restitution to the victim. 

Yes. The Statewide Automated Victim Information and Notification System (SAVIN) is a program that is available to tell victims and witnesses if a defendant is released from incarceration on bail, work release, or parole. The program can also inform you if the defendant has escaped from jail. To register for SAVIN please follow the link provided in the "Helpful Links" page.