Frequently Asked Questions
- How do I contact the district attorney’s staff that works in my county?
- What type of crimes does the district attorney’s office handle?
- Who prosecutes my case if the crime is a misdemeanor?
- What kinds of sentences do felony crimes carry?
- If the judge orders restitution, will I get it all at once?
- Do I file my felony charges directly with the district attorney’s office?
- I called the law enforcement agency that took my case and the person I talked to knew nothing about, what should I do?
- When will my case be presented to the grand jury?
- Will I have to come testify before the grand jury?
- If the defendant does not plea guilty will I have to come to the trial to testify?
- If I have a rape exam done, will I have to pay the bill if I do not have insurance?
- Will I have some say about the defendants sentence?
- Can I sue the defendant in civil court?
- I am a defendant, can I talk to the district attorney about my case?
- Can I get my stolen property back from the law enforcement agency?
- If I am the victim in a case can I drop the charges?
- What does the victims assistance coordinator do?
- How long it take to get the case to trial?
- Should I speak with the district attorney or the assistant district attorney about my case?
- I called the district attorney’s office, but no one was there, what should I do?
- Can the district attorney’s help me with my divorce or other civil case?
- What about bad check cases?
- I have a complaint about a public official, who should I contact?
- Do I have to go to court?
- What is a subpoena?
- Will I be contacted by the attorney or investigator for the defendant and do I have to speak with them?
- Can I bring a friend to court?
- What if I don’t speak English?
- What is a domestic abuse protective order and how do I get one?
- What are hate crimes?
- What happens when I go to court?
How do I contact the district attorney’s staff that works in my county?
What type of crimes does the district attorney’s office handle?
The District Attorney’s Office prosecutes felony criminal cases only (Except for bad checks.).
There are two kinds of crimes:
- Misdemeanors crimes that are handled in justice and municipal courts. These are punishable up to one (1) year in the county jail or a fine is imposed.
- Felony cases are punishable for more than one (1) year with sentences served in the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC).
Who prosecutes my case if the crime is a misdemeanor?
The County or City Prosecuting Attorney.
What kinds of sentences do felony crimes carry?
The District Attorney’s Office does not set sentences. All sentences are decided by the Circuit Court Judges.
There are four types of sentences judges generally give:
- Prison – The person serves time in a Mississippi Department of Corrections (MSOC) facility.
- RID (Regimented Inmate Discipline) Program – This sentence requires a first offender to complete a “Boot Camp-style” program that is conducted at the state prison. It includes drug and alcohol classes. If the person fails the program, they are transferred into the regular prison population to serve their sentences. If they successfully complete the program, the judge puts them on probation and requires them to pay restitution to the victim and fines and costs to the county. If they fail to carry out the terms of their probation they will be sent to prison to serve out their sentence. They must report monthly to a probation officer and are subject to random drug tests.
- Probation – This is where the judge sentences a person to prison but suspends the sentence for a certain period of time. This time is usually 5 years. The offender must follow “the conditions of the probation”. These conditions generally include: not violating any law; paying restitution to victims; paying fines and court costs; meeting with a probation officer each month; passing random drug tests; keeping a job; supporting any dependents; and staying away from the victim. There may be other special conditions set by the judge. Probation is very difficult. About one third (1/3) of the people put on probation are ultimately sent to prison. Only people who have no prior felony convictions are considered for probation. Probation is not an option for crimes such as sex offendences, drug sales, murder, manslaughter or aggravated assault (unless the victim of the assault does not object to the probation sentence). Many young offenders complete probation and do not violate the law again.
- House Arrest – The defendant must remain in the residence while wearing an electronic device on them that prevents them from leaving. They must meet the same conditions as probation. Defendants on House Arrest are only allowed to leave the residence to go to work and for short periods of time to conduct personal business, such as going to the grocery store.
If the judge orders restitution, will I get it all at once?
Generally, restitution is paid in monthly installments from the Circuit Clerks office.
Do I file my felony charges directly with the district attorney’s office?
No. You should file them with the police department if the crime happened inside a city or with the sheriff’s department if it happened in the county.
I called the law enforcement agency that took my case and the person I talked to knew nothing about, what should I do?
Generally these agencies have many cases they are working on. It is necessary for you to talk to the officer who investigated your case or one of the felony investigators. The police chief or the sheriff generally will not know all the details of the case and will have to track down the investigator and call you back. It is best to speak with the investigator to start with. Many times the person who answers the phone at the agency is a phone operator and will know nothing about the case so again, ask for the person working the case.
When will my case be presented to the grand jury?
Generally it will be presented to the first grand jury to be held after the case is bound over to the grand jury by the municipal or justice court judge. If it is bound over closely before the grand jury starts it may be presented to the next grand jury. If the law enforcement agency does not have all the information needed for us to prosecute the case we may send it back to them for further work. This would mean it would be presented to a later grand jury after the case file is completed by law enforcement.
Will I have to come testify before the grand jury?
It depends on the case. We try to avoid inconveniencing you, but you may have to come.
If the defendant does not plea guilty will I have to come to the trial to testify?
If I have a rape exam done, will I have to pay the bill if I do not have insurance?
No.The county will pay. You should notify the victims assistance coordinator at our office.
Will I have some say about the defendants sentence?
YesThe judges alone decide what the sentence will be. Under the rules of our court district, the district attorney’s office does not recommend sentences and the judges do not want us to. There is an agreement between the judges and the district attorney, that there will not be plea bargaining on sentences. The judge orders a probation officer to find out the defendants past personal history and criminal history, the facts of the crime, and the judge looks at the Victims Impact Statement which you fill out and send in to our office (it tells of your money loss and the physical and emotional loss you suffered). After studying these things the judge decides on the sentence he will give the defendant.
Can I sue the defendant in civil court?
Yes.But, you must get a private attorney to file a civil suit.
I am a defendant, can I talk to the district attorney about my case?
No.We can only speak with your attorney. It is improper, under the court rules, for us to speak with the defendant.
Can I get my stolen property back from the law enforcement agency?
Generally, YesHave them call us and we will try to do it (unless there is a reason that it must be held for evidence).
If I am the victim in a case can I drop the charges?
All felonies are crimes against the state. The D.A.’s office has to agree to drop the charges. Usually, we will do what the victim wants if we are sure there is no intimidation by the defendant or his family and it is in the best interests of justice. If we let the charges be dismissed you may not bring the charges up again.
What does the victims assistance coordinator do?
To learn more about victims assistance coordinators, please visit this link:Victim Assistance Program
How long it take to get the case to trial?
This depends on the complexity of the case and the investigation of the case and the case load in the county the case is in. Lawrence county has few felony cases and they generally get to trial quickly. Pearl River county has the heaviest case load and it takes longer to get a case to trial there. The circuit courts generally meet a certain number of weeks a year as the judges travel from county to county. Generally the case will be concluded within six months and a year after the charges are filed. Sometimes the defendants plea guilty and the case moves quickly through the system.
Should I speak with the district attorney or the assistant district attorney about my case?
The assistant district attorney for the county the case was tried in generally will be the most up-to-date on the case and its progress. Since the district attorney and the assistant district attorneys are in court or preparing to go to court constantly, the first person to call about the status of your case is the victims coordinator. They are easier to get in contact with and will answer your question or get the attorney to call you back. The attorney will speak with you before the case goes to trial. In sexual assault cases, child abuse cases, or homicide cases you will be consulted prior to a decision to reduce a charge to a lesser felony charge if that is considered.
I called the district attorney’s office, but no one was there, what should I do?
Sometimes the staff is all in court, or the clerks office, or conferring with witnesses or law enforcement outside our office. If you leave a message on the answering machine, they will call you back.
Can the district attorney’s help me with my divorce or other civil case?
No.We can only do criminal cases.
What about bad check cases?
Please visit our Economic Crime Unit section to learn more about bad check cases.
I have a complaint about a public official, who should I contact?
If it is a non criminal matter, discuss it with the public official or the Board of Supervisors, or City Council and try to work it out. If it is a criminal matter, contact the State Department of Audit in Jackson or the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Division. They will investigate it and if it is criminal they will furnish their report to us.
Do I have to go to court?
If you have been subpoenaed you do have to appear in court. However, we can accompany you to court and help prepare you to testify if you wish.
What is a subpoena?
A subpoena is a court order which requires you to appear at the time and place stated. Failure to comply with the subpoena may be a crime. Immediately call the phone number listed at the bottom of the subpoena in order to speak with the district attorney, assistant district attorney, or secretary.
Will I be contacted by the attorney or investigator for the defendant and do I have to speak with them?
Defense attorneys, public defenders or their investigators may attempt to speak with witnesses and take statements. As a victim or witness you can talk to or decline to talk to anyone you wish. Please notify the prosecutor handling the case if you have been contacted for an interview by the defense attorney or their investigator as soon as possible. If you wish, we will arrange to be with you when the defense attorney or investigator meets with you.
Can I bring a friend to court?
Yes. You can bring a friend or family member for support.
What if I don’t speak English?
Court translation services are available for victims and witnesses. We will try to speak with you in your native language if possible. Let us know as soon as possible if you do not speak English so a translator can be obtained.
What is a domestic abuse protective order and how do I get one?
A Domestic Abuse Protective Order is a legal document ordering your batterer not to contact you and to stay a specified distance away from you and anyone else named on the order, at any named location. You may get such an order from a Municipal or Justice Court Judge. Go to Municipal Court or Justice Court to file the petition for the order. If your batterer violates the Protective Order by contacting you personally, by telephone or mail, you may call Law Enforcement to report the violation and have the batterer re-arrested.
What are hate crimes?
Hate crimes are criminal offenses motivated by prejudice based upon the victim’s real or perceived status in one of the following categories: race, color, religion, nationality, country of origin, ancestry, or gender. A conviction for a crime found to be a hate crime can result in additional punishment over and above that for the underlying criminal offense. Not every criminal offense in which bigotry plays a part is a hate crime. The prejudice based upon one of the categories mentioned above must be a “substantial factor” in the motivation for the underlying crime for the offense to be classified as a hate crime.
The United States and Mississippi Constitutions protect free speech. No matter how rude, offensive or repugnant a persons speech may be, so long as it does not constitute a threat to another, it is probably protected by the Constitution. This is true even if the speech is rude, insensitive and offensive and reflects a person’s prejudices and bigotries, or is an insult. The law does not punish bigoted speech alone. However, when someone commits a criminal act because of prejudice toward a member of the groups listed above then the hate crime statutes come into effect. It is the bias motivated behavior which the law prohibits, not the biased thoughts or speech.
What happens when I go to court?
Before the actual date of the hearing, you will have a chance to meet with the Assistant District Attorney assigned to your case to talk over the facts and answer any questions you might have. A visit to the courtroom where you will testify can be arranged. If a child is the witness, these steps are extremely important.
When the court day arrives, you should not make any other plans for that day. Dress comfortably and respectfully. Bring a book or something to occupy you while you wait. Unfortunately, some hearings take longer than anticipated or take longer to get started. Try to arrange child care in advance. If you need help with these arrangements, ask the Victim Witness advocate to suggest options. If you have something else that you must do, tell the district attorney’s office in advance so you can be accommodated. If you need a letter or phone call to explain your absence to your employer or teacher, it can be provided.
When it is your turn to testify, listen to the question and then answer. Sometimes you may not remember the answer or you may not know the answer. It is all right to say so. The district attorney will ask you questions first. This is how the judge knows who you are and why you are there. The attorney for the defendant (the person who committed the crime) will also ask you questions. He or she can ask you the same or different questions. Listen to all the questions you are asked before you answer. If you do not understand the question, say so. If you did not hear it, ask that it be repeated. Everyone is interested in finding out the truth, so we want to make sure you are not misunderstood. When all the attorneys have finished asking questions, the judge may or may not have some questions. After everyone is finished, you will be excused and are free to leave the courtroom. You may wait for the district attorney to find out what happened or call the office later. Often, another witness will be called immediately after you and the district attorney will not have an opportunity to talk to you right away.