What does a trial mean for me?

The District Attorney's office will probably call you or write to you before the trial date. They will probably want to interview you.

You should let the District Attorney's office know as soon as possible if you have names of witnesses, medical records, tape recordings, photographs, property damage bills, or anything else that will help them prepare their case.

You do not have to tell everything to the District Attorney's office or the Victim Witness Advocate. It is important to help the DA's office as much as you can, but you do not have to tell them everything about your life. For example, if the DA wants you to sign a release so they can talk to your therapist, you can refuse to sign it. It’s okay to say no to some things.

What do I do if the person who abused me contacts me or wants to talk to me?

He should not contact you if you have a
209A protective order or if the court told him at his arraignment not to contact you. If there is an order telling him not to contact you and he contacts you anyway, then he is violating the court order. You can report this to the District Attorney's office, the Victim/Witness Advocate, or to the police.

He should not contact you. If he wants to talk to you about the case he should do it through his lawyer. You should not contact him either.

What if his lawyer contacts me or wants to talk to me?

His lawyer is not doing anything wrong by trying to talk to you. But you do not have to talk to his lawyer before the trial. If you do not want to talk to the lawyer, just say so. If the lawyer wants to try to settle the case, he or she should do it with the District Attorney's office, not with you. If the lawyer wants to ask you questions, he or she can do that during the trial, while you are in court testifying.

But if you want to talk to the abuser's lawyer before the trial, you can. It is up to you.

It is very important that you figure out who the abuser's lawyer is, and to be careful when you speak to him or her. That lawyer is there to represent the abuser. He or she may try to confuse you. The abuser’s lawyer may use whatever you tell her to confuse your testimony in court.

When do I get to tell what happened?

If there is a trial, the District Attorney's office will ask you to tell the court what happened. Telling the court what happened is called “testifying,” You will have to swear to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth. You will testify on the witness stand, in front of the judge and maybe a jury. An Assistant District Attorney will ask you questions about what happened. The abusive person’s lawyer will also ask you questions.

The abusive person and his attorney
will
be in the courtroom. Other people may be sitting in the courtroom. You can bring friends and family members to be in the courtroom if you want.

Sometimes there is no trial. The abusive person may agree to a “plea bargain.” If the abusive person agrees to a plea bargain, you may not get to tell a judge or jury what happened.

What else happens at the trial?

If there were other witnesses, including the police, they will also be asked to testify. The abuser may testify, too, but he does not have to. Once everyone has testified, either the judge or a jury will make a decision.

What happens if the judge or jury decides the abusive person is guilty?

Many things can happen if the judge or jury decides the abusive person is guilty. The court might send him to jail or give him probation. The court may order him to go to counseling or do other things. It depends on a lot of things, like the type of crime and his past criminal record.

You can talk to the Assistant District Attorney about the types of sentences your abuser might get.

What happens if a judge or jury decides the abusive person is not guilty?

The abusive person will be free to leave the court after the trial if the judge or jury decides he is not guilty. You cannot file another criminal complaint about the same event. If he abuses you again, you can file a new criminal complaint about the new abuse.

There is always the chance that the abuser will walk out of the court after the trial. You need to think about your safety. It is good to do some safety planning before the trial about how to get home safely that day and how to stay safe afterwards. See our
sample Safety Plan
.

Produced by an AmeriCorps Project of Western Massachusetts Legal Services updated and revised Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Last Updated October 2009

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