FAQ's - Frequently Asked Questions

FAQs - Frequently Asked Questions

 

The below FAQs are provided as a public service. The information provided may not apply to your own case or circumstances and are not to be considered legal advice.

If you have a legal question, you should contact a private attorney or a legal aid organization.

You may "click" on the below questions to jump down the page to the answers or you may scroll down to view all the questions and answers.

 

What does the Trinity County District Attorney’s Office do and what is its jurisdiction?

I reported a crime and the District Attorney’s office did not bring the case to court. Why?

Who does the District Attorney represent?

Can you give me legal advice?

How do I report a crime?

I have a felony warrant. Can you help me clear it?

Can I access criminal records online?

I completed serving my probation and/or jail time. Can I get my criminal record expunged (removed)?

I have a consumer-related problem. Who do I contact?

Where do I make a complaint about a problem with an attorney I hired?

I received a citation from the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife (or CalFIRE, CHP, the U.S. Forest Service, etc.). Why is the Trinity County District Attorney prosecuting me for this?

What does a District Attorney Chief Investigator do? Can s/he investigate my case instead of the local law enforcement agency?

What does a ‘Victim Witness Assistance Program’ do?

If I get a subpoena do I have to go to court?

I witnessed a crime or had information about a crime that occurred when I wasn’t even around. Why am I being called to testify?

If I am called to testify as a victim or a witness, do I have to talk in front of the defendant in court?

If I miss work in order to testify, will the District Attorney pay for my loss in wages?

Where is the court?

What is plea bargaining? Do I as a victim have any say about a plea bargain?

I was a victim of a crime and I want to know the name of the defendant and the upcoming court dates. Who do I contact?

What is an arraignment?

What is a preliminary hearing?

What happens at Judgment and Sentencing?

Can I give a Victim Impact Statement to the court on how the crime has affected me?

I am a merchant who was given a bad check. Can the D.A.’s office help get my money back?

I am the victim in a domestic violence case and I want do drop the charges. Can I do that?

I want to file a complaint against a law enforcement officer or agency in Trinity County. Can you help me with that?

I have a complaint against the D.A.’s office. Who would handle this?

I think I need a restraining order. What types are there and how do I get one?

What does the Trinity County District Attorney’s Office do and what is its jurisdiction?
The Trinity County District Attorney’s office prosecutes felony and misdemeanor crimes and infractions that occur in Trinity County. Trinity County is a remote and rural county in northwestern California and has a population of 13,526 (2012) with 3,208 square miles. There are no incorporated cities in the county. Law enforcement agencies in the county – who will forward crime reports to the Trinity County District Attorney’s office for prosecution consideration – consist of the Trinity County Sheriff’s Department, the California Highway Patrol, the U.S. Forest Service, CalFIRE, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. We also receive reports from the county’s Adult and Child Protective Services.

I reported a crime and the District Attorney’s office did not bring the case to court. Why?
Although a crime was reported and a law enforcement officer investigated the crime and completed a report, it may not have been forwarded to the district attorney’s office. There may be more investigation needed, a suspect cannot be identified, or many other law enforcement related reasons.
Even if a law enforcement report is completed and forwarded to the district attorney, it may not be filed with the court by the prosecutors. The district attorney or a deputy district attorney will review the law enforcement report and determine if there is sufficient information and supporting evidence (physical evidence or available victim/witness testimony) to bring the defendant to court and to prosecute the case based on the applicable law regarding the offense. The prosecution must look at the law and the evidence to ethically decide to bring a case to trial.

Who does the District Attorney represent?
As the public prosecutor for Trinity County, the District Attorney represents the ‘people of the state of California’ and will prosecute defendants based on the law and the facts of the case. Certainly, the Trinity County District Attorney’s Office will work with the victim of a crime as the prosecution moves forward. However, the District Attorney does not directly represent the crime victims. The Trinity County District Attorney’s Office does have a “Victim/Witness Assistance Program” that can provide information and support to victims of crime. Go to Victim Witness Services for more information or call the Victim Witness Coordinator at 530 623-8357.

Can you give me legal advice?
No. According to California law (Business and Professions code section 6131), the District Attorney’s Office may not provide you legal advice. If you have legal questions, you should consult with a private attorney.

How do I report a crime?
If you have an emergency or are in fear of an immediate threat to your safety, contact 9-1-1. If you are a victim of a crime anywhere in Trinity County (and it is not a current emergency), contact the Trinity County Sheriff’s Office 24-hour non-emergency number at 530-623-2611. They may refer you to another agency, if necessary, such as the U.S. Forest Service if the crime occurred on federal forest land. However, the Trinity County Sheriff’s Office should be your first contact: 530-623-2611.

I have a felony warrant. Can you help me clear it?
No. You should contact a private attorney if you wish to challenge the warrant. If you cannot afford an attorney, you should contact Trinity County Court Services at 530-623-1208 and ask to be placed on the walk-in calendar. They will explain the procedures to you. Or you could report to the Trinity County Jail to be booked and processed.

Can I access criminal records online?
No. Trinity County does not have online access to criminal records at this time.

 I completed serving my probation and/or jail time. Can I get my criminal record expunged (removed)?
There are different procedures on reducing the conviction (from a felony to a misdemeanor) or having the charges reduced from a misdemeanor to a dismissal. You may check with the Trinity County Court Services at 530-623-1208 and ask for the procedures or you may retain a private attorney to assist you.

I have a consumer-related problem. Who do I contact?
You can call or write the California Department of Consumer Affairs. By phone: 1-800-952-5210. By mail: Department of Consumer Affairs, Consumer Information Division / 1625 North Market Blvd., Suite N 112 / Sacramento, CA 95834

Where do I make a complaint about a problem with an attorney I hired?
You may contact the California State Bar Association who will take the complaint and investigate the matter. The State Bar also prosecutes or disciplines attorney as appropriate. Contact the ‘Attorney Complaint Hotline” at (800) 843-9053.

I received a citation from the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife (or CalFIRE, CHP, the U.S. Forest Service, etc.). Why is the Trinity County District Attorney prosecuting me for this?
The Trinity County District Attorney is the primary prosecutorial agency in Trinity County. The District Attorney’s Office will review a citation or crime report from any law enforcement agency – where the crime occurred in Trinity County – and will review it to determine if prosecution is warranted. Certain federal crimes may be prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney General.

What does a District Attorney Chief Investigator do? Can s/he investigate my case instead of the local law enforcement agency?
The District Attorney’s Chief Investigator is a law enforcement officer who provides independent investigations on criminal matters in Trinity County on behalf of the district attorney. He or she works directly for the District Attorney. The Chief Investigator will only become involved in your matter if you have filed a report with local law enforcement first and the situation – from the District Attorney’s assessment – requires additional independent investigation.

What does a ‘Victim Witness Assistance Program’ do?
The Trinity County Victim Witness Assistance Program exists to help make the criminal justice system more understandable, accessible and responsive to the concerns of victims and witnesses. Our Victim Witness Advocate is available to ensure that crime victims and their family members are kept informed and supported throughout the criminal justice process and are treated with dignity, compassion and respect. The Victim Witness Assistance program can also help certain victims access the state’s ‘Victim Compensation Program’ for financial assistance needed as a result of being a victim of certain crimes. The Victim Witness Advocate is not an attorney and cannot give you any legal advice.
For more information about the Victim Witness Assistance Program, please call 530-623-8357 or visit the website at: Victim Witness Services

 If I get a subpoena do I have to go to court?
Yes. It is considered a court order and your failure to comply with the subpoena may cause the judge to impose a fine or a jail sentence on you.

I witnessed a crime or had information about a crime that occurred when I wasn’t even around. Why am I being called to testify?
You would be called to testify if the district attorney or the defense attorney believes you have evidence or could provide testimony in court that would benefit the search for truth in this matter.

If I am called to testify as a victim or a witness, do I have to talk in front of the defendant in court?
Yes. The defendant has a right to hear all the evidence in the case. Both attorneys – the district attorney and the defense attorney – may ask you questions.

If I miss work in order to testify, will the District Attorney pay for my loss in wages?
No. However, you may be entitled to mileage reimbursement and, depending on the case, reimbursement for lodging expenses.

Where is the court?
The Trinity County Courthouse is located on the corner of State Highway 299 and Court Street in Weaverville, just north of the old downtown area. It is a two-story, red building on the northwest corner. There are two court departments: Department 1 is just past the security entrance and Department 2 is to the right and down a corridor. If you have questions as to the locations of courthouse rooms, ask the security personnel at the courtroom entrance.  GoogleMap

What is plea bargaining? Do I as a victim have any say about a plea bargain?
A plea bargain is where the prosecution and the defense attorney agree – with the defendant’s approval – a settlement to the case before trial. The settlement can be the defendant pleading guilty or ‘no contest’ to the charges, or reduced charges, and the matter will proceed to judgment and sentencing. Factors such as the strengths and weaknesses of a case, punishment, deterrence, victim’s wishes, and other interests are weighed by the prosecution as whether to agree or not to agree with a plea bargain. The Trinity County District Attorney’s Office will take into account the wishes of the victim. However, the decision to prosecute, dismiss a case, or accept a plea bargain is solely the decision of the district attorney.

I was a victim of a crime and I want to know the name of the defendant and the upcoming court dates. Who do I contact?
The Victim Witness Assistance Program can provide you information, within the bounds of the law, and victim support in your case. For more information about the services of the Victim Witness Assistance Program, and the various services provided, please call 530-623-8357 or visit the website at: Victim Witness Services

 What is an arraignment?
The arraignment is the first hearing in court for the defendant and is where the defendant is formally charged with the offense, given a copy of the complaint (most commonly, to his private attorney or a court-appointed attorney), and informed of his constitutional rights. The defendant will enter (usually through his/her attorney) a plea of guilty or not guilty at this time.

What is a preliminary hearing?
This is a hearing in a felony matter where the prosecution presents witnesses (usually law enforcement personnel) to provide evidence to the court supporting the charges. The judge will decide if there is sufficient evidence to bring the defendant to trial. There is no jury and the judge alone makes the decision. The defendant or his/her attorney can cross-examine the witnesses.

What happens at Judgment and Sentencing?
After a guilty verdict is entered, either by the judge in a judge-only trial or by the jury in a jury trial (or if a ‘no contest’ pleas is entered by the defendant), a date for judgment and sentencing is set. In felony cases, the county Probation Department will interview the defendant and review the defendant’s history, the case and court records, and will often contact the victim(s), to create a ‘recommended’ sentencing report. On the date of the judgment and sentencing, the judge will review the report and both prosecution and the defense attorney will argue the merits of the proposed sentence.

Can I give a Victim Impact Statement to the court on how the crime has affected me?
Yes. Under California law, “The victim, or up to two of the victim’s parents or guardians if the victim is a minor, or the next of kin of the victim if the victim has died, have the right to appear, personally or by counsel, at the sentencing proceeding and to reasonably express his, her, or their views concerning the crime, the person responsible, and the need for restitution. The court in imposing sentence shall consider the statements of the victims, parents or guardians, and the next of kin made pursuant to this section and shall state on the record its conclusion concerning whether the person would pose a threat to public safety if granted probation.” (California Penal Code section 1191.1). Also, the victim may, depending on the circumstances, submit a written or video statement. Contact the Victim Witness Assistance Program for more information: 530-623-8357 or visit the website at: Victim Witness Services

I am a merchant who was given a bad check. Can the D.A.’s office help get my money back?
Yes. Contact the District Attorney’s Office Chief Investigator regarding the matter at 530-623-1304.

I am the victim in a domestic violence case and I want do drop the charges. Can I do that?
Although your desire to drop the charges will be seriously considered by the district attorney, the decision to prosecute – or not to prosecute – is solely up to the district attorney. Depending on the circumstances of the matter, the district attorney may ask for a “diversion” program or other means to hold the defendant accountable while at the same time protecting the victim and public safety.

I want to file a complaint against a law enforcement officer or agency in Trinity County. Can you help me with that?
No. You must go through the employing agency to file a complaint. They are required, by law, to investigate the matter and respond back to you. If you do not like the outcome of the agency’s investigation there are other avenues to pursue and it is suggested you contact a private attorney for assistance.

I have a complaint against the D.A.’s office. Who would handle this?
Contact the District Attorney’s Office at 530-623-1304 or by mail at: Trinity County District Attorney, P.O. Box 310, Weaverville, CA 96093.  The matter will be investigated and you will be notified of the outcome of investigation. If you do not like the outcome, there are other avenues to pursue and it is suggested you contact a private attorney for assistance.

I think I need a restraining order. What types are there and how do I get one?
There are a number of restraining order types depending on the circumstances of your case. If someone has been arrested, you may be given a ‘Criminal Protective Order’ by the judge to protect you and other victims. There are also Domestic Violence Restraining Orders and for these the Human Response Network may assist you: they can be reached at: 530-623-2024. Additionally, there are other restraining orders available: please see the California Courts Self-Help Website.

 

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