Sedgwick County...working for you

District Attorney

Frequently Asked Questions

The Process Begins:

The Trial Commences:

More Victim Information:

What should I do when a crime occurs?

First, call 911. Emergency Communications will dispatch officers in priority situations. In those instances where follow-up is not immediately required, your call will be transferred to the appropriate law enforcement agency to make a full report.

If a suspect has been identified by the police and sufficient evidence is available, the case is presented to the District Attorney. The District Attorney is the people's representative in the criminal justice system, with sole responsibility for deciding whether charges should be filed and what those charges should be.

Kansas law classifies criminal offenses into two broad categories: misdemeanors and felonies.

  • Misdemeanor: the less serious crimes punishable by a term of imprisonment not exceeding one year in the county jail and/or a fine up to $2,500.

  • Felony: the most serious class of criminal offense punishable by incarceration in a state prison. In addition, fines in varying amounts may be imposed.

What is my role as a victim or witness?

You are a witness because you have seen, heard, or know something about a crime that has been committed. If you are the victim of a violent crime or owner of property that has been stolen, damaged or misused, the case cannot be prosecuted unless you cooperate and participate by appearing to testify.

You may not think that what you know about the case is very significant; however, small pieces of information are often required to determine what really happened.

Your presence and willingness to testify may be the deciding factor in determining what will be done in the case. If the defendant decides to plead guilty, the plea may come at the last moment because the defendant is hoping you, the witness, will not show up, or that the case will be dropped for other reasons.

What if someone threatens me?

Concerns about your well being and safety after being victimized or witnessing a crime are normal. If you have any fears or receive any threats concerning your involvement in a case, you should immediately contact the law enforcement agency that investigated the case or the District Attorney's Office. In an emergency situation, call 911. Do so as soon as possible so that the threats can be documented and appropriate action taken. There are laws to protect you against people who attempt to bribe, intimidate, threaten, or harass you.

What happens to the accused?

The person charged with a crime is now called the defendant. Soon after arrest by a law enforcement officer, the defendant is taken before a judge who informs the defendant of the reason he/she has been arrested, and of the facts contained in the complaint. This is called the first appearance. At this time, the judge sets the amount of bond and advises the defendant of his/her rights, which include the right to a preliminary hearing. Unless the defendant can post bond in the amount set by the judge, he/she remains in custody and is normally transferred to the county jail to await further action in the case.

What is the purpose of bond?

Bond is allowed in most all criminal cases, including felonies. The amount of bond is not set by the District Attorney but by the judge. Its legal purpose is to assure the defendant's appearance in court when ordered for later proceedings and to assure the public safety. In setting the amount, the judge is required to consider a number of factors, including: the seriousness of the offense against the defendant, the defendant's prior criminal history, and the likelihood the defendant will return to court to face the charges.

What is a subpoena?

A subpoena is a court order directing you to appear in court at a particular time and place. It may be delivered by mail or in person. It does not mean that you are charged with an offense. Its purpose is to call you to court so that you may tell what you know about a case.

Usually you are notified well in advance of the court date. If you change your address or telephone number, immediately notify the Victim/Witness Division of the District Attorney's Office. They may need to contact you if there is a change in the date or time you are to appear. Our telephone number will be provided for your use in the event you have questions regarding your appearance. Be sure to call before you report to the courthouse.

When subpoenaed, you must appear or risk being held in contempt of court and/or fined. Inform your employer that you have been called to testify and may have to appear. Always contact the Victim/Witness Division for confirmation before making arrangements to be absent from work. Your employer should not discharge, punish, or threaten you for attending a criminal proceeding when you have been subpoenaed. If you are experiencing difficulties with your employer regarding a court appearance, please contact the District Attorney's Office immediately.

How many times will I have to appear in court?

No one can tell you in advance how many times or how long you will have to be in court. The process of justice takes time. The number of times you may be called to appear in court and the delays you may encounter are the result of our criminal justice process that is based on the principle that every person is presumed innocent until proven guilty. The constitutional rights that protect the defendant are the same rights that would protect you if you were accused of a crime.

The primary stages involved in processing a criminal case are summarized below to help you understand what happens when a person is accused of a crime.

  • In cases involving misdemeanor offenses, usually your first and only appearance will be for the actual trial.

  • In a felony case, the first time you appear as a witness will usually be for the preliminary hearing. This hearing is not held to determine the innocence or guilt of the accused, but merely to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to charge the defendant with the crime. If the judge determines that the evidence establishes that a crime has been committed and that it is probable that the accused committed such crime, the judge will set the case for trial. In this event, the judge may order the accused held in jail or released on bond. However, if after listening to the evidence from both parties the judge determines that the evidence is insufficient to charge the accused, the judge must release him/her.

  • Pretrial motions by the defense attorney or by the prosecuting attorney may require additional hearings before the trial begins. On occasion, a victim or witness may be called to testify at such a hearing.

What if the defense attorney contacts me?

You are not required to discuss the case with the defense attorney or their investigator prior to testifying in court. If you choose to do so, always request proper identification and an explanation of the purpose of the interview. If you have any concerns about talking with a defense attorney or their investigator, you are encouraged to contact the assistant district attorney in charge of your case and to have him/her with you at the time of the interview.

Do all cases go to trial?

If the prosecuting attorney handling a criminal case determines there is not sufficient evidence to take the case to trial, the case may be dismissed. This action is taken only after the case has been completely investigated, and normally after the police and prosecutor have exhausted all avenues for obtaining additional evidence.

The reduction of charges or the dismissal of some counts in an existing case occurs from time to time. This procedure, which is called plea negotiation, plays an important part in the criminal justice system. As a case develops, certain facts may be discovered that require the reduction of charges against a defendant. In some instances it is because things not known at the time of charging are brought to light; sometimes it is because evidence or statements made by the defendant thought to be available at the trial are not available; sometimes important witnesses cannot be located. In any event, when plea negotiation is used by the District Attorney's Office, it is only after a careful determination that justice is best being served. While the ultimate decision belongs to the District Attorney, the victim and police agencies are made aware of the reasons and necessity of the plea negotiation, and their concerns are considered.

What happens if the defendant is mentally ill?

The defense of mental disease or defect is recognized in Kansas. In cases where the defense is raised, the final decision as to the defendant's mental condition at the time of the commission of the crime is made by the judge or jury.

If during the court proceedings the judge finds that the defendant is mentally incompetent and unable to assist in his/her own defense or unable to understand the nature and purpose of the criminal proceedings, the defendant is committed to an institution until such time as competency is restored.

May a juvenile be tried as an adult?

The State may request that the Court consider transferring the juvenile offender's case to the adult court only in limited circumstances. A Motion for Adult Prosecution (MAP) is a request by the District Attorney's Office that the juvenile offender be tried as an adult because of the seriousness of the offense, the prior criminal record of the juvenile or the demonstrated inability of the juvenile to be rehabilitated in the juvenile justice system.

Who is a child in need of care?

Only juveniles between the ages of 10 and 18 may be charged with criminal offenses. However, those under the age of the 10 may still come under court supervision if they commit a crime. Child In Need of Care (CINC) proceedings are commenced in a variety of circumstances allowing the court to assume jurisdiction over the child and his/her parents to make appropriate orders for the continuing welfare of the child.

What happens at trial?

The trial of a person charged with a felony is held in district court before a judge and a jury of 12 people, randomly selected, who will determine whether the accused is guilty. Misdemeanor cases are tried in district court before a judge and a jury of 6 people. The verdict is based on the testimony of witnesses and evidence presented according to our state law.

Trials follow a certain procedure. Some of the events that you should be aware of are as follows:

  • OPENING STATEMENTS: In their opening statements, the district attorney and defense attorney outline the evidence expected to be presented to the jury. Opening statements are not evidence, but are only explanations by the attorneys of what each side expects the evidence to prove. A defense attorney may give an opening statement immediately after that of the district attorney or at the close of the State's case. Likewise, a defense attorney may elect to give no opening statement at all.

  • STATE'S CASE: The district attorney on behalf of the State will present evidence against the defendant. This begins with the attorney for the State's direct examination of a witness. Next, the defense attorney may cross-examine the witness. Upon completion, the district attorney may again question the witness. This is called redirect examination.

  • THE DEFENDANT'S CASE: After presentation of evidence for the State has been completed, the defense attorney may present witnesses for his/her side. This is the usual procedure. However, since the burden to prove that the defendant committed the alleged offense is on the State, the defense need not present any evidence if they so choose, and the defendant is not required to testify on his/her own behalf.

  • JURY INSTRUCTIONS: At the conclusion of all the evidence, the judge will inform the jury of the issues to be decided and the rules of law that apply to the case.

  • CLOSING ARGUMENTS: After jury instructions, closing arguments will be presented. Closing arguments are not evidence but are only summaries by both sides of the evidence presented during trial from their respective viewpoints.

  • JURY DELIBERATIONS: Following the judge's instructions and closing arguments, the jury considers the evidence and decides whether the defendant is guilty.

  • JURY VERDICT: Jury deliberations are concluded when a unanimous verdict has been reached. When this is done, the jury returns to the courtroom and the jury verdict is announced. If the jury is unable to arrive at a unanimous verdict, the judge will declare a mistrial. This means that a new trial will probably be scheduled at a later date.

How do I testify?

Witnesses naturally feel apprehensive about their first appearance in court because they do not know what to expect. The following suggestions should help you prepare for your court appearance:

  • If you have been summoned by a subpoena, bring it to court with you. The subpoena will provide information on when and where to appear.

  • If you are going to testify about records, familiarize yourself with them before the trial.

  • The trial of a criminal case is a serious matter. While in the courthouse, conduct yourself in a dignified manner.

  • A neat appearance is important.

  • Do not try to memorize what you will say in court, but try to recall just what you observed at the time of the incident.

  • Remember jury members are ordinary people like yourself. Don't be embarrassed. Speak frankly and loudly enough for them to hear you.

  • Look at the jurors and speak to them when testifying. A jury considers attitude, facial expressions, and body language when evaluating testimony.

  • Do not lose your temper. Be courteous.

  • Do not exaggerate.

  • Do not hedge questions or try to argue with the defense attorney.

  • Listen carefully to the questions. If improper, an attorney will object. Never answer a question you don't understand or give a snap answer without thinking. Have the question repeated if necessary.

  • If you can't answer a question with a yes or no, you should say so.

  • Directly and simply answer only the question asked. Do not volunteer information.

  • If your answer was not correctly stated, correct it immediately.

  • Do not give your opinions or conclusions unless asked. Testify only to facts you observed or know, not what you think about those facts.

  • You will be asked to take an oath to tell the truth. Remember the seriousness of this oath during the entire time you are testifying. If you willfully fail to tell the truth while testifying, you will be subject to penalties for perjury.

  • If asked whether you have discussed the case with anyone, you should indicate any occasion that you have talked with the prosecutor, the defense lawyer, or anyone else.

  • If the judge interrupts or an attorney objects to your answer, stop answering immediately. Likewise, if an attorney objects to a question, do not begin your answer until the judge tells you to do so.

  • You should never attempt to talk to a juror about the case or any other matter while the case is being tried. This includes chance meetings during recesses, in hallways, at lunch, or any other place.

  • TELL THE TRUTH!

Will the defendant be punished?

If a defendant is convicted of a criminal offense, the judge will determine the appropriate sentence. The trial judge generally has some discretion in what specific punishment is ordered. This discretion must be exercised in accord with the sentencing guidelines enacted by the Kansas Legislature. The guidelines allow the judge to impose a sentence between minimum and maximum penalties.

Sentencing will occur following the preparation of a pre-sentence investigation report (PSI). A PSI report is prepared by a court officer who obtains the victim's statements and gathers information on defendant's criminal history. The victim's statement is your opportunity to tell the judge the injuries you suffered and the crime's effect on your life and finances. The victim's statement must be considered by the court when the defendant is sentenced. As a victim, you have the right to be present at sentencing and address the court if the judge allows.

The trial judge also has the authority to place the defendant on probation. Probation may include supervision by Community Corrections, work release, or a house arrest program. This procedure permits the court to try to fit the particular punishment to the crime and to the defendant. The Kansas Legislature has directed that most non-violent offenders should receive probation.

Can the defendant appeal the conviction?

It is possible that the case in which you testify will be appealed if the defendant is convicted. This is a right guaranteed to the defendant. When the case is tried in district court, the convicted defendant may appeal to the State Supreme Court or Court of Appeals that will determine if there was any legal error in the trial as revealed by the written record. There is no trial or testimony during the appeal. The appeal is "on the record" which means the appellate court will consider the transcript of the proceedings at trial.

Will the defendant pay me for the loss?

A victim may be reimbursed for damages or losses suffered as a result of a crime if the court orders the defendant to make restitution. "Restitution" means that the defendant must compensate the victim.  If a defendant is sentenced to prison, the Department of Corrections may require payment of restitution as a condition of post-release supervision. To assist the court in determining the amount of restitution, keep any receipts, bills, or estimates regarding the loss. Promptly complete and return the restitution form to the District Attorney Office.

What if I need an interpreter?

Foreign language interpreters and interpreters for the hearing and/or speech impaired are available. If you are in need of interpreting services while in attendance at court, contact the District Attorney Victim/Witness Division as soon as possible at 660-3600.

Will I be compensated for my court appearance?

A witness in a criminal case is entitled to a fee of $10 a day for each day you appear as required, and preapproved reimbursement for mileage necessarily traveled en route to court. You should sign up for your fee at the District Attorney Victim/Witness Division on the day you appear in court. The Clerk of the District Court will send your check by mail.

Am I eligible for crime victim's compensation?

Victims of violent crime (including intentionally inflicted injuries and D.U.I.) may apply for money under the Kansas Crime Victim's Compensation Program administered by the Kansas Attorney General's Office. An application form can be obtained through the District Attorney's Victim/Witness Division.

How should I prepare a child to testify?

Children, as well as adults, naturally feel apprehensive about their first appearance in court because they do not know what to expect. If you and the child have received a subpoena, bring it to court with you. The subpoena will provide information on when and where you are to appear.

  • The trial of a criminal case is a serious matter and because a child may have to testify at one or more stages of the trial, the following suggestions should help you prepare for the child's court appearance. As a care giver, you may also be required to testify. In each case, the attorney assigned will visit with the child to make him/her more comfortable about court and to answer any questions of the child or care giver.

  • Never attempt to help the child or coach the child with their testimony. A child should always be encouraged and supported in telling the truth.

  • A neat appearance for both the child and their care giver is important.

  • Remember jury members are ordinary people like yourself. Don't be embarrassed. Speak frankly and loudly enough for them to hear you.

  • Above all, help the child not be afraid of the courtroom, judge, prosecutor or defense attorney. The courtroom is a safe place where they can tell the Judge or jury what happened to them. As a care giver, look at the jurors and speak to them when testifying. A jury considers attitude, facial expressions, and body language when evaluating testimony.

  • Do not lose your temper. Be courteous.

  • Do not exaggerate.

  • Do not hedge questions or try to argue with the defense attorney. Listen carefully to the questions. If improper, an attorney will object. Never answer a question you don't understand or give a snap answer without thinking. Have the question repeated if necessary.

  • If you can't answer a question with a yes or no, you should say so.

  • Directly and simply answer only the question asked. Do not volunteer information.

  • If your answer was not correctly stated, correct it immediately.

  • Do not give your opinions or conclusions unless asked. Testify only to facts you observed or know, not what you think about those facts.

  • You will be asked to take an oath to tell the truth. Remember the seriousness of this oath during the entire time you are testifying. If you willfully fail to tell the truth while testifying, you will be subject to penalties for perjury. If asked whether you have discussed the case with anyone, you should indicate any occasion that you have talked with the prosecutor, the defense lawyer, or anyone else.

  • If the judge interrupts or an attorney objects to your answer, stop answering immediately. Likewise, if an attorney objects to a question, do not begin your answer until the judge tells you to do so.

  • You should never attempt to talk to a juror about the case or any other matter while the case is being tried. This includes chance meetings during recesses, in hallways, at lunch, or any other place.

Is a child victim eligible for victim's compensation?

All victims of violent crime (including intentionally inflicted injuries and D.U.I.) may apply for money under the Kansas Crime Victims' Compensation Program administered by the Kansas Attorney General's Office. An application form can be obtained through the District Attorney's Victim/Witness Division.

Are juvenile court proceedings and records confidential?

All juvenile offender proceedings are open to the public unless the Court finds that it is in the best interest of a juvenile under the age of sixteen (16) to close the proceedings. All juvenile files are open unless the Court find that it is the best interest to close the file of a juvenile under the age of fourteen (14). On sex offenses cases, information identifying victims shall not be disclosed to the public. Social history and information on the juvenile offender remains confidential.

When will my property be returned?

The court or law enforcement officials hold property until it is no longer needed as evidence. At that time, it will be returned to you. If more than one person claims an interest in the property (i.e. pawn shop), the court must decide to whom the property should be returned.

How do I know if the defendant has AIDS?

Kansas law provides that when a crime has occurred where it appears from the nature of the charge that the transmission of bodily fluids from one person to another may have been involved, infectious disease testing and counseling is available for the crime victim.

After conviction of the defendant for any such crime, and at the request of the crime victim or the parent or legal guardian of a victim who is a minor, the COURT IS REQUIRED to order that the defendant submit to test that detects HIV and hepatitis B.  Under some circumstances, the court may also order testing after arrest but before conviction.

The results of any infectious disease test conducted after conviction will be divulged to the following persons:

  • The judge ordering the test;

  • The convicted person;

  • A health care provider or counselor designated to receive such information by the victim or parent or legal guardian of a victim who is a minor.

If the infectious test results in a positive reaction, the results must be reported to the Secretary of Health & Environment and to the Secretary of Corrections.

The cost of the test and any victim counseling that may be necessary will be provided at no cost to the crime victim.

Will I be notified of court hearings?

As a crime victim, you have the right to be notified and to attend public hearings in which the defendant has a right to be present.

What happens after the defendant is in prison?

The Kansas Parole Board may recommend pardons, commutations, and reprieves for prisoners. They may also grant parole to prisoners of certain very serious crimes. However, before they take any action, they must consider any statement you make about the case. Beginning July 1, 1993, a defendant is automatically released after serving the sentence, less good time credit earned.  Good time credit equals a maximum of 15% of the original sentence.

What is the prisoner review board?

The prisoner review board plays a significant role in the two sentencing systems that presently govern those confined within Kansas Department of Corrections' facilities.  Under the indeterminate release structure, the prisoner review board determines when an incarcerated inmate will be released.  Furthermore, the board establishes supervision conditions of parole and conditional release, discharges successful parole and conditional releases from supervisions per the recommendation of the parole officer and revokes the release of those who have violated the conditions of their supervision.

The prisoner review board conducts monthly Public Comment Sessions in the cities of Wichita, Topeka and Kansas City.  Additionally, sessions are conducted bi-annually in both Hays and Garden City.  The sessions provide an opportunity for board members to receive written and oral input from victims, victims' families, inmates' families, community members and other interested persons regarding the possible parole of inmates.  Notice of the public comment sessions and a list of relevant inmates are available at: PRB public comment sessions.

You will receive notification from the prisoner review board or the victim/witness division staff if the offender is considered for a pardon, reduced sentence, or parole.  When you receive a notice, send the prisoner review board a written statement about your case immediately at the following address:

The Prisoner Review Board
Landon State Office Building
900 Jackson Street, Room 452-S
Topeka, Kansas 66612

What victim/witness services does the District Attorney's Office provide?

The Victim/Witness Division is designed to help you understand the criminal justice process and your role as a victim or witness. Coordinators will contact you in an effort to keep you better informed and to notify you of court hearings and other legal proceedings. Your questions and concerns can be addressed by calling the Center at 660-3600 or through our toll free number, 1-800-432-6878.

What if my employer won't let me come to court?

If you are lawfully subpoenaed to court, an employer cannot prevent court attendance. When appropriate, the District Attorney's Office will contact your employer to discuss the importance of your role as a witness.

What is offender registration?

Kansas Law provides that certain persons convicted of sexual offenses or violent crimes must register with the sheriff of the county in which they reside. Requirements as to who must register are based on the year of conviction and/or the number of convictions if prior to 1993. Only information on the crimes of offenders committed after April 14, 1994 are open to public disclosure. Information on the locations of these offenders is available through the Sheriff's Office.

What happens after the juvenile offender is sent to a juvenile correctional facility?

The Commissioner of Juvenile Justice decides when a juvenile offender is released from a juvenile correctional facility and whether their release will be direct with no supervision or conditional with supervision by a social worker or court services officer.

In certain cases involving serious offenses, the Juvenile Correctional Facility must notify the District Attorney of the future release. The District Attorney, in turn will notify the victim or the victim's family if their address is known.

In the event that a juvenile offender attempts to contact you from a facility or otherwise, please alert the facility superintendent and this office for assistance that can be offered. In an emergency, immediately contact your local law enforcement agency.

When should I contact a juvenile correctional facility or the District Attorney's Office?

When the District Attorney notifies you about the future release, send the Juvenile Correctional Facility a written statement about your case immediately. The Juvenile Correctional Facility have the following mailing addresses: