Frequently-Asked-Questions

Q: I feel that a crime has been committed. How do I press charges? Can I report a crime directly to the Criminal District Attorney’s Office?
A: In most cases, crimes should be reported to the police department or other law enforcement agency which has jurisdiction over the city or county where the crime occurred.For example, if the crime occurred in Wills Point, it should be reported to the Wills Point Police Department. If the crime was committed in any unincorporated area of Van Zandt County, the crime should be reported to the Van Zandt County Sheriff’s Office. Please click the links tab for our local law enforcement agencies contact information.

Q: What is a grand jury?
A: A grand jury is a body of 12 citizens who consider whether indictments should be returned in felony cases. An indictment is a document which sets out the crimes that the grand jury has probable cause to believe the defendant committed. The Criminal District Attorney has no control over the selection of grand jurors. Grand jury proceedings are not open to the public, and witnesses take an oath of secrecy before testifying.

Q: What does a grand jury do?
A: Unless a defendant waives an indictment, Texas law requires action by the grand jury before a felony case can be brought to trial. If the grand jury believes that there is sufficient evidence to prove that a person has committed a felony, it votes to issue an indictment. At least nine grand jurors must vote in favor of an indictment, or the case is “no-billed,” which terminates the case. The Criminal District Attorney assists the grand jury in hearing evidence and preparing indictments, but the actual deliberations on cases are secret and only the grand jurors are present when deliberation and voting is in progress.

Q: Does the Criminal District Attorney’s Office provide copies of police reports?
A: Police Reports are only provided to the defendant’s attorney after he or she has been formally charged in court and in some circumstances to victims of the alleged offense.

Q: Can I talk to District Attorney?
A: Yes. However, you will often times be able to get your question(s) answered by speaking with the office staff or the DA investigators regarding your issue. If you cannot get your question(s) answered or need to speak with me directly, you should email me at chrismartin@vanzandtcounty.org

Q: Negotiated Pleas – Will this case be “Plea bargained?”
A: The prosecutor and the defendant, through his/her lawyer, will frequently reach an agreement prior to trial about the disposition of the case. This agreement will then be presented to the judge. There are a number of reasons why this practice is necessary, but the policy of the Criminal District Attorney’s Office is to consult with all the victims of violent crimes involving personal assault or injury before finalizing any negotiated plea agreement. If you are concerned about a plea agreement in your case, contact the Criminal District Attorney’s Office immediately. A victim does not have the final word on the disposition of the case even though their wishes are considered.

Q: What is a Victim Impact Statement?
A: This form is distributed to the victim, guardian of a victim or close relative of a deceased victim of a violent crime (ex. sexual assault, aggravated assault). The form does not apply to the victim of a property crime (ex. burglary, theft). This form should be completed by you promptly and returned to the Criminal District Attorney’s Office so that it may be reviewed by the assistant criminal district attorney assigned to the case and presented to the court at the proper time. It is also forwarded to the Pardons and Paroles Division or the Community Supervision and Corrections Department (Probation Department).

Q: If I am the victim of a violent crime, may I receive compensation for expenses I have incurred?
A: You may make an application under the Crime Victims Compensation Act to compensate you for reasonable medical, drug, counseling and rehabilitation expenses. Additional expenses are also covered. Please talk with the Victim Assistance Coordinator at the Criminal District Attorney’s Office for more details.

Q: Who will be with me in court?
A: 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). A Victim Assistance staff member may also be with you, if you request.

Q: How long will I be at court as a witness?
A: Your courtroom time, while actually testifying, may not take long; it depends upon many factors. Most of the time you will just be waiting for your turn to testify. You and your family and friends are encouraged to bring a book or magazine to read while you wait.

Q: What is a subpoena?
A: A subpoena or summons is a court order directing a person to appear in court at a stated date and time, usually for the purpose of giving testimony. If you receive a subpoena, you must appear in court when and where you are directed to do so. If you believe that you cannot appear when subpoenaed, call the Criminal District Attorney’s Office or the appropriate clerk’s office at once.

Q: What if I can’t attend court as a witness on the date stated in the subpoena?
A: If you have a date conflict, you should contact the Criminal District Attorney Investigator immediately to discuss your conflict. In some cases, the prosecutor handling the case can put you “on call” (so that you can go to work or school on the day you are subpoenaed, and you will be called at a pre-arranged phone number an hour or so before you are needed in court). If you are subpoenaed by the defendant, you should let the defense attorney know of your conflict as well as the prosecutor. They will endeavor to work out a solution to your problem.

Q: What if I am having trouble getting off work?
A: If your employer fails to give you time off from work to testify, please let us know. We can, if you want us to, contact your employer and ask for cooperation. We can also provide verification of the need for your attendance in court with dates and times, and usually the approximate length of time you will need to be absent from work. Aside from problems with an employer, if you have any other difficulty connected with appearing in court, let us know and we will make every effort to help.

Q: What if a defense attorney or private investigator contacts me about the case?
A: You may be contacted by defense attorneys or investigators seeking to discuss the case with you. While you are free to speak about the case with anyone you choose, you are not required to do so. If you decide to discuss the case with the defense attorney or investigator, we would like to have someone from our staff present during the interview. You are not required to discuss the case with a representative of the defense and may decline to do so. If you wish, you may simply refer the defense attorney to our office for any information he/she wants and decline to discuss the case.

Q: Why are defendants or suspects allowed to get out of jail by posting a bail bond before they go to trial?
A: Under Texas law, every person who has been arrested is entitled to get out of jail once they have given money or a bail bond as security to ensure that they will appear and answer the charges brought against them in court.  When the defendant or suspect is released from jail on bail, they usually have pre-trial release conditions (bond conditions) they must comply with or they may be re-arrested. These conditions usually order the defendant/suspect to stay away from an alleged victim, abstain from using drugs and alcohol, provide urine samples, and report to a pre-trial release officer. If the defendant/suspect violates the conditions of pre-trial release, the Court may conduct a hearing and revoke their release and have the person re-arrested.