What to Expect in Court


The legal system is an entirely new world for many victims thrust into the complicated process. NCVAN can help prepare victims to better understand and navigate the process. Click the links below for more information.

What to




What to

Expect In court

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Tips for Observing Proceedings


The Victim/Witness Legal Assistant in the District Attorney’s office prosecuting your case can help prepare you for the courtroom. The following are some general guidelines that you may find helpful in the courtroom:

  • Maintain a serious and dignified manner in and around the courthouse and throughout the trial. Dress appropriately.

  • Do not discuss the case in the halls, restrooms, or anywhere that an ally of the defense or a juror may overhear. Most district attorney’s offices have a special waiting area for victims and witnesses. Check with the Victim/Witness Legal Assistant for location and information.

  • Never speak to a judge or juror, unless you are in the courtroom and testifying under oath – or unless the judge specifically asks you a question in the courtroom. If you come in contact with a judge or juror in the hall, elevator or during a recess or lunch break, do not speak to them.

  • You may see the defendant, for the first time since the crime, in the courtroom. Try to prepare yourself for the emotional impact of this encounter. It may upset you to hear the defendant say “not guilty.” Sometimes these are the first words that victims have heard the defendant speak.

  • Prepare yourself to hear upsetting and graphic testimony.

  • If you are the family or loved one of someone who was murdered, you may hear horrifying details of the crime for the first time. Ask the District Attorney to fully review the details of your loved one’s death prior to the trial.

  • If you find yourself becoming extremely upset during the trial, quietly leave the courtroom.

  • If you have any questions or concerns during the trial, write them down and give them to the district attorney or Victim/Witness Legal Assistant. Don’t interrupt or whisper during the trial.

  • If the press is covering the trial, you may be approached and questioned by reporters. You should refrain from answering any questions or making any comments until after the trial is over. Be polite and refer them to the District Attorney.

  • Prepare yourself to hear the verdict, which could be a highly emotional time for you and your family.



Tips for Testifying Victims/Survivors

The Victim/Witness Legal Assistant in the District Attorney’s office prosecuting your case can help prepare you for the courtroom. The following are some helpful tips to remember when testifying at any court proceeding:

  • Neat appearance and proper dress are important.

  • Prior to testifying, try to recall the crime scene, what was there, and exactly what happened, the best you can. Don’t try to memorize what you are going to say.

  • Always tell the truth. If you do not know the answer to a question, say, “I don’t know.” Do not guess.

  • Listen very carefully to each question, making sure you understand completely, before answering. If you do not understand a question, ask for it to be repeated or rephrased.

  • Speak clearly and loudly enough so that the judge and jury can hear you. Be polite, firm and clear in your answers.

  • Answer only the questions asked and then stop. Don’t provide information unless you are specifically asked.

  • If the questions you are asked requires a “yes” or “no” answer, answer “yes” or “no” unless your answer cannot be fully understood without an explanation. You may ask the judge if you can explain your answer or elaborate.

  • Stop talking if an objection is made by one of the attorneys or if the judge interrupts. The judge or one of the attorneys will tell you if you can continue your testimony. If you have forgotten the question, ask to have it repeated.

  • Although you may feel nervous and frightened by testifying, it is important to be serious and focused in your approach.

  • If you become upset while testifying, pause until you can regain your composure or ask the judge if you can have a few moments. The judge may call a recess to allow you this time. You may want to ask for a drink of water.

  • If you are asked if you have talked with anyone about the case, answer truthfully. You have probably spoken with police, the district attorney, family and friends. If you say only “yes” in response to the question, the defense attorney may imply that you have been told what to say. It is best to tell whom you have spoken with and that you only have discussed the facts of the case.




The Legal Process - Criminal Justice Flowchart

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