Vallejo Police Frequently Asked Questions
Subpoenas and Court
What is a subpoena?
A subpoena is a court order for you to appear as a witness at the time and place specified. It requires you to appear as ordered, unless you are notified otherwise by the Deputy District Attorney handling the case. Failure to comply with the subpoena is a crime.
It is not unusual for a hearing to be postponed or to become unnecessary, due to a plea of guilty or dismissal. Then, your appearance will become unnecessary. A number is listed on your subpoena, which you are to call the night before your court date to confirm that your appearance will be needed. Please call the recorded message displayed on your subpoena; it may save you an unnecessary trip to court.
If you must go to court, please bring your subpoena with you. Remember to keep the District Attorney’s office informed of any change of address and/or phone number.
Must I appear in court at the time and date on the subpoena?
Yes, however, special arrangements can be made in special cases. For clarification, please contact the District Attorney's Office at the number listed on the subpoena.
What if I have a question about the case?
If you have any questions regarding the case, contact the District Attorney's Office at the phone number listed on your subpoena. When calling the District Attorney's office, refer to the defendant's name, which is usually located in the upper left hand corner of the subpoena and the case number, which is usually located in the upper right hand side of the subpoena. Do not call the Police Department, as we have no information on the cases and cannot excuse you from appearing.
Will I be contacted by the attorney or investigator for the defendant?
You may be. Defense attorneys, including Public Defenders, will often have their investigators speak to witnesses and take statements.
Do I have to talk to a defense attorney or their investigator?
If you are contacted by the defense attorney or the investigator, please contact the prosecutor handing the case. He or she can be reached at the District Attorney’s Office.
Can I bring a friend to court?
Yes. You can bring a friend or family member for support in court, unless that person is a possible witness in the case. If a problem exists, contact the District Attorney's office.
How long will I be at the Hall of Justice?
It is impossible to know how long your case will take. Every effort will be made to keep this time to a minimum, but be prepared to spend the day.
Do I need an attorney?
No. You are not being prosecuted in this case. You are required to appear only because you were the victim or witness of a crime that is now in the criminal court system.
Can I bring my children with me?
It is recommended that you do not bring children to court. If at all possible, make child care arrangements before coming to court.
Are translators available if needed?
Court translation services are available for victims and witnesses. Request for interpreters should be made as soon as by calling the District Attorney's.
General Information for Witnesses in Criminal Cases
There are three types of crimes, which are prosecuted by the Solano County District Attorney's Office.
Felonies: These are offenses for which an offender can be sent to prison. Examples are murder, rape, robbery, kidnapping, sale of drugs, and burglary of a residence.
Misdemeanors: These are less serious crimes than felonies. Offenders can be sentenced to serve a term in the county jail. Examples include driving under the influence of alcohol, petty theft, malicious mischief, and driving with a revoked driver's license.
Infractions: Generally, these are traffic matters on which the District Attorney will not appear.
If you are subpoenaed on a felony case, your first court appearance is usually the preliminary hearing. The judge listens to the evidence and decides if the offender, called a defendant, should stand trial. This is not the trial and less evidence is presented than is needed at trial. There is no preliminary hearing in a misdemeanor case.
In both misdemeanor and felony cases, witnesses are sometimes subpoenaed to testify at hearings on motions. Such hearings are generally brief and are heard by a judge. Such hearings are important as they may decide whether a trial will be held.
Anyone charged with a crime has a constitutional right to a trial. Usually the trial is before a judge and twelve-person jury, although sometimes there is no jury. At a trial, witnesses are called to testify, and evidence is produced.
There are other parts to a criminal case, but witnesses are not required to appear at these other stages.
Prior to your testifying, you will have an opportunity to speak with the Deputy District Attorney prosecuting the case. When you are called as a witness, he will ask you questions concerning your knowledge of the facts relevant to the crimes charges. Defense counsel will then have an opportunity to ask questions to test your memory of those facts. Whether or not justice is served in a particular case may depend upon the conduct and attitude of witnesses during their testimony. With this idea in mind, here are some guidelines to follow on being a good witness.
What is expected of a witness?
When giving your testimony, it is the District Attorney’s responsibility to ask the questions and direct your testimony. Your job as a witness is only to stay calm as possible and to tell the truth.
- Wear clothing suitable for court. (No shorts, halter tops, bare feet, etc.) Do not chew gum, eat food, or rattle objects in your pocket while testifying.
- Always tell the truth. As a witness, you will be sworn under penalty of perjury to tell the whole truth. Not only is it a crime not to tell the truth but also it is a lie. No matter how insignificant, withholding the truth could cause the judge or jury to disbelieve all your testimony. Only testify to what you personally know.
- Control your temper. By losing your temper, you can hurt your testimony either by inviting more cross-examination or by clouding the facts. Remain calm.
- Speak clearly and loudly. Your testimony will be of no value, unless everyone in the room can hear and understand it. If you do not speak loudly enough to be understood, the judge or jury may think you are trying to hide something. There is a court recorder writing down what you say. Speak loudly, slowly, and clearly, using words not gestures.
- Answer all questions directly. It is the District Attorney's job to bring out all the relevant facts by questioning you. In order to assist you, remember:
- Answer only the questions asked. Do not volunteer or try to tell your information all at once.
- Listen carefully to the questions and only answer the questions you understand. If you don't understand the question, ask that it be repeated. The question will be repeated and explained for you.
- If you don't know the answer, say so; don't guess or give the answer you think the attorney wants. Do not argue with the attorneys. If objections are made, do not answer until the judge tells you to do so.
- If you mistakenly answer a question incorrectly, correct or clarify your answer immediately.