Being a Witness, Your Duties, Your Rights
Iowa County Attorneys Association
This information is intended to familiarize you with the criminal court system in Iowa and your rights and obligations if you become a victim or witness. If you have specific questions or special needs, call the office of your local County Attorney. Participation of citizens as witnesses in criminal prosecutions is essential in the fight against crime. Without the testimony of witnesses and victims, a prosecutor's case will fail. Your help is both necessary and appreciated.
Keep in Touch
If you change address or phone number, contact the Sheriff or Police Department investigating your case. If the County Attorney filed a charge, notify that office. If you have been subpoenaed, call the County Attorney's Office before you go to Court to make sure you don't make an unnecessary trip. Court cases are often rescheduled for a variety of reasons.
On rare occasions, witnesses are threatened or harassed. Tampering with witnesses and harassment are crimes. If this happens, contact the appropriate law enforcement department and your County Attorney.
Pre-Trial Release of Defendant
Almost all Defendants are released prior to trial. To ensure the safety of others and the appearance of the Defendant at trial, release is subject to conditions imposed by the court. The conditions may include posting money (bail), hours, travel restrictions, and others.
Knowingly making false statement of material fact of falsely denying knowledge of a material fact is perjury, a felony. If you are aware of possible perjury, contact the appropriate enforcement agency immediately.
Unless you receive a subpoena, you need not talk to a defense attorney, the Defendant, or anyone else connected with the defense. It's all right to ask for identification before you agree to talk to anyone. If the defense wants your statement, they can subpoena you for a deposition (a formal sworn statement) at which the County Attorney will be present. If the Defendant requires a written statement, call your County Attorney.
Witnesses must appear and truthfully testify under oath when subpoenaed. A subpoena indicates where you should be and when. The prosecutor may ask you to report to the office of the County Attorney first. Bring your subpoena along with you so that you may claim your witness and mileage fees after you testify.
If you have any questions about your testimony, call your County Attorney.
When you receive a subpoena, check with your employer to find out what the company policy is regarding your appearances in Court both before trial and at trial. Policies vary widely and can depend on different circumstances. If you would like, your prosecutor handling the case can call your employer or provide a letter, which will explain the need for your appearance.
Witnesses are entitled to $10 for each full day attendance and $5 for each attendance less than full day, plus an allowance of 45¢ for each mile you traveled. In most counties, take your subpoena to the Clerk of Court to claim your fees.
Property Loss and Recovery
If you have had property stolen, report it to the nearest law enforcement agency and your insurance company immediately. If it is recovered it may be held for evidence. If you have a real need for your property, call the Department that has your property or the County Attorney. Usually evidence is held and returned after the completion of sentencing.
The Court may order a convicted Defendant to pay restitution to victims. In case of violent crime, you may also file a claim for restitution with the State. Ask your prosecutor about the program.
Helpful Links -
Crime Victim Assistance Program: -
This is a program that pays certain out of pocket expenses related to an eligible victim’s injuries from a crime. Funds for the program come entirely from fines and penalties paid by convicted criminals, not tax dollars. The program is the payer of last resort after insurance, other government programs, and other sources. A victim who has been physically or emotionally injured by a violent crime may be eligible to receive benefits for: lost wages, counseling, medical care, funeral costs, crime scene clean up, child or dependent adult care, crime related travel costs, personal clothing/bedding replacement and/or home security replacement costs. To apply you must: complete the application; sign the repayment and subrogation agreement; sign the medical and mental health information releases; and send the forms to the program.
The IowaVINE system is a service through which victims of crime can use the telephone or internet to search for information regarding the custody status of their offender and to register to receive telephone and email notification when the offender's custody status changes. The toll-free number for IowaVINE is 888-7-IAVINE or 888-742-8463. This service is provided to assist victims of crime who have a right to know about their offender's custody status.