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ORANGE COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY’S OFFICE
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q: During the COVID-19 outbreak, what should I do if I am a witness in a case being handled by the District Attorney’s Office?
A: Many criminal court proceedings have been postponed during the COVID-19 outbreak. If you are a victim or a witness on behalf of the prosecution, you may call the District Attorney’s Office at (845) 291-2050, between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., and ask for the assistant district attorney (ADA) assigned to the case. The ADA will discuss with you the status of the case and discuss further proceedings.
Q: During the COVID-19 outbreak, what should I do if I am a witness in a grand jury case?
A: Orange County grand juries are scheduled to meet three days every week during the COVID-19 outbreak. If you receive a subpoena to appear before a grand jury, please contact the District Attorney’s Office at (845) 291-2050, between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., to discuss the case with the assigned ADA. If you are subpoenaed to testify as a witness in a grand jury case, please report on the required date and time to the County Government Center, 255-275 Main Street, in Goshen; tell the security guard why you are there; and provide your identification and the subpoena to the guard. The guard will give you further instructions.
Q: What should I do if I am a victim of a crime?
A: If you are the victim of a crime, and the event is an emergency, immediately call 9-1-1. If the event is not an emergency, call your local police department, the New York State Police, or the Orange County Sheriff’s Office to report the crime. In most cases, the District Attorney’s Office does not initiate criminal investigations, but normally prosecutes cases after a police investigation has been completed. If, however, you are a victim of labor fraud, you can call the District Attorney’s Labor Hotline at (845) 291-2107. If you are a victim of a hate crime, you can call the District Attorney’s Hate Crimes Hotline at (800) 378-1411. To report any crime anonymously, you may call the District Attorney’s Crime Hotline at (845) 291-2106, and your call will be referred to an appropriate police agency for investigation.
Q: If I am a victim of a crime or a witness, and the case is prosecuted in court, what type of personal information about me will be disclosed to the defendant?
A: Recently-enacted criminal procedure amendments, effective January 1, 2020, now require the District Attorney in any criminal case to disclose to the defendant’s lawyer the names of everyone who has information about the case, together with “adequate contact information” about each of those people. “Adequate contact information” does not require the disclosure of a home address but does require some means by which the defense lawyer can actually contact the person. A phone number or an email address will generally be enough, provided the defense lawyer can actually contact the person there. Victims or witnesses may establish an email address specifically to provide contact information for the case that they are involved in, if that email address is monitored, and if the defense attorney can actually contact the person there.
Q: What do I do if I am a victim or a witness in a criminal case and I am contacted by the defense?
A: If you are contacted by the defendant’s attorney or a defense investigator, it is entirely your decision to speak to that person or not. You may choose to speak to the person, or you may refuse to. Anything, however, that you say to a defense representative might be used in court and might be recorded. In addition, if you are contacted by the defense, you should not simply ignore the contact. If the defense cannot reach you, the inability to do so might be the basis of a defense motion to require the disclosure of additional contact information for you. Instead, rather than ignoring the contact, if you do not wish to speak to the defense, you should respond to the contact and tell the person that you do not wish to talk.
Above all, be sure you know who you are speaking to. You may be contacted by the ADA, police officers, DA’s Office investigators, defense attorneys, defense investigators, or even, sometimes, defendants. Before you say anything to anyone, make sure you know who they are.
Q: What if I have concerns for my safety if the defendant is given access to my contact information?
A: The law allows the District Attorney to make a motion in court for a protective order, which is an order to restrict the defendant’s access to information, including your contact information. It is the policy of the District Attorney’s Office to make a motion for a protective order in any case where there is any reason to believe that the safety of a witness may be at risk. If you have concerns that your safety might be compromised if your contact information is revealed to the defense, bring those concerns to the attention of the assigned ADA. The ADA can then make the appropriate motion to keep your contact information secret until right before a trial in the case.
Q: I have heard that, if my house is broken into, the defendant can get an order to come back to inspect my house. Is that true?
A: Yes, under recently-enacted criminal procedure amendments, effective January 1, 2020, the law now allows a defense attorney to make a motion for an order of that kind, but it is the policy of the Orange County District Attorney’s Office to oppose those motions. The order only allows the defendant’s attorney to inspect the premises, not the defendant personally. In addition, the motion will not be granted automatically, but the defense must show some valid need to inspect the premises. You also have a right to ask for police to be present during any inspection that is allowed.