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Frequently Asked Questions

 

Q: Can I report a crime to the District Attorney's Office?
A:
In most cases, crimes must be reported to the police department or other law enforcement agency that has jurisdiction over the city or county area where the crime occurred. For example, if the crime occurred in the City of Riverside, it should be reported to the Riverside Police Department. If it has occurred in an unincorporated area that doesn't have a police department, the crime should be reported to the Riverside County Sheriff's Department.

However, there are some exceptions. Some crimes involving consumer fraud, environmental crimes, or those involving misconduct of public officials may be reported to the District Attorney's Special Prosecution Section at (951) 955-5491.

Questions about bad checks should be directed to (800) 584-3201.

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Q: I am the victim in a domestic violence case and I want to drop the charges. Can I do that?
A:
Many people incorrectly believe that a victim has the power to "press charges" against the abuser, or to later "drop the charges." All crimes are offenses against the community, not just the individual victim. All criminal complaints are prosecuted on behalf of the State of California, not the individual who called the police or the person who may have been personally harmed by the defendant's conduct.

Only the prosecutor can file or dismiss charges. This is important because it takes the responsibility for prosecuting the abuser away from the victim and puts it on the prosecutor -- where it legally belongs. It also means that the defendant cannot pressure the victim into dropping the charges.

Although the decision whether to prosecute or not prosecute is ultimately up to the prosecutor, the victim's opinion is important and the prosecutor will definitely take those wishes into account when making decisions regarding the case.

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Q: I was the victim of a violent crime. Will the District Attorney's Office pay for my hospital bill and my lost wages?  How can I collect compensation for pain and suffering?

A: The District Attorney’s Office does not pay for hospital bills or lost wages. However, the California Victim Compensation Program (CalVCP) may be able to help you with unreimbursed crime-related medical expenses and lost income. To receive assistance in applying for CalVCP call the District Attorney's Division of Victim Services office near you: Riverside (951) 955-5450 - Indio (760) 863-8408 - Murrieta at (951) 304-5680
With regard to compensation for pain and suffering, you may need to contact a private attorney.

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Q: I want to file a complaint about a police officer of deputy sheriff. Can the District Attorney's Office help me?
A:
No. You will need to report the matter to the law enforcement officer's employing agency. That agency is required by law to receive a complaint, investigate the matter, and respond back to the complaining party.

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Q: I have a complaint against your office. How do I contact you and will you respond?
A:
Please submit that complaint to District Attorney Michael Hestrin at the District Attorney's Office.

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Q: I think someone is using my credit cards or has stolen my driver's license. Can the District Attorney's Office help me?
A:
If you are a victim of identity theft, you may call the District Attorney's Cyber Crime Unit (CATCH) at (951) 774-3088. You can also call the California Department of Justice Identity Theft Registry (888) 880-0240 or the Identify Theft Resource Center (858) 693-7935.

You may wish to visit the website www.consumer.gov/idtheft. On this website you can obtain a copy of the standard affidavit form for reporting identity theft to creditors; you can report the crime to the Federal Trade Commission's "Consumer Sentinel," and you can obtain a copy of "When Bad Things Happen to Your Good Name."

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Q: If I get a subpoena do I have to go to court?
A:
Yes, you must go to court. If you fail to do so, the judge may impose a fine or a jail sentence. Be sure to bring your subpoena with you to court.

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Q: Why am I a witness? I didn't see the crime happen.
A:
Witnesses are not limited to eye witnesses. You may not have seen the crime happen but you may know something about it. You may also know something about a piece of evidence, or you may know something that contradicts another witness's testimony. If you wonder why you are testifying in a particular case, ask the prosecutor who is handling it.

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Q: As a witness, do I have to talk in front of the defendant in court?
A:
Yes. The defendant must be present in court to hear what all witnesses say about him/her. The lawyer for the defendant is called the defense attorney and may ask you questions after the prosecutor does.

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Q: Is the District Attorney my attorney or do I need to get my own attorney in a civil case?
A:
The district attorney represents the People of the State of California in criminal court. The District Attorney's Office does not have authority to prosecute civil cases on behalf of individual citizens.

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Q: If I miss work to testify, will the District Attorney's Office pay for my loss in wages?
A:
No. Witnesses must go to court to testify about matters in which they may have knowledge. It is a civic duty imposed upon all citizens in order to insure a just and fair judicial system.

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Q: Where is the court?
A:
Courts are located in several locations throughout the county. The main criminal courthouses are in Riverside, Indio, and Murrieta.

In Riverside:
Hall of Justice (criminal cases)
4100 Main St.

Historic Courthouse (civil cases)
4050 Main St.

Family Law Court
4175 Main St.

Juvenile Court
9991 County Farm Road

In Indio:
Larson Justice Center
46-200 Oasis St.

In Murrieta:
Southwest Justice Center
30755-D Auld Road

In Blythe:
265 N. Broadway St. (criminal, civil and traffic)

In Moreno Valley:
13800 Heacock St. (small claims and traffic)

In Banning:
135 N. Alessandro Road (criminal, civil and traffic)

In Hemet:
880 N. State St. (civil, family law and traffic)

In Temecula:
41002 County Center Dr. (civil, small claims and traffic)

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Q: Who decides what charges to file and how do they make that decision?
A:
A deputy district attorney reviews cases brought to the District Attorney's Office by local law enforcement agencies. The deputy DA reviews the reports in light of current law to decide the appropriate filing decisions based on the evidence in the case.

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Q: What is plea agreement? And do I, as a victim, have anything to say about it?
A:
There are not enough prosecutors, judges, or courtrooms to try before a jury all the thousands of cases filed each year in Riverside County. For those defendants taken to trial, or for those who plead guilty before a trial, there are not enough jail cells in the state to hold them. These practical demands -- plus the defendant's right to a speedy trial, the seriousness of the cases, the strengths or weaknesses of cases, the victim's wishes, public safety, punishment, rehabilitation, and deterrence -- are all interests that are considered by the prosecutor when deciding how to proceed. A plea agreement is always designed to balance these competing interests. Most cases are resolved in a relatively short time by the defendant's plea - many times a plea to the charged crime or crimes.

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Q: I was the victim of a crime. Can you tell me the name of the defendant and the defendant's next court date?
A:
The District Attorney's Office can provide you with the name of the defendant and the next court date if we have filed charges against the defendant. To obtain this information and you are a victim, call the Division of Victim and Witness Services in Riverside at (951) 955-5450, in Indio at (760) 863-8408, or in Murrieta at (951) 304-5680.

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Q: In court the judge ordered the defendant to pay restitution to me. But so far I haven't received anything. Who can help me?
A:
You may call the Probation Department in Riverside at (951) 358-7500. Or you may contact the District Attorney's Division of Victim and Witness Services in Riverside at 3960 Orange Street (951) 955-5450, in Indio at 82-675 Hwy 111, (760) 863-8408, or in Murrieta at 30755-D Auld Road, (951) 304-5680.

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Q: I think I've been cheated by a contractor, tradesman, shopkeeper, other person who provides labor or services. Can the District Attorney's Office help me?
A:
The DA's Special Prosecution Section may be able to help. The staff there may refer you to an agency that can help you. Or you can call one of these agencies: The Contractor's State Licensing Board (800) 321-2752; the Department of Consumer Affairs (800) 344-9940; the Better Business Bureau (909) 835-6064; or, if it applies, the Bureau of Automotive Repair (951) 782-4250.

The Riverside County Department of Community Action, Alternative Dispute Resolution (951) 955-4903 mediates disputes in the following areas: landlord/tenant, harassment, neighbor disputes, small claims, employment, domestic, consumer/business, and senior issues.

The Small Claims Advisor can be reached at (951) 413-5353.

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Q: I am a merchant. Can the District Attorney's Office help me collect on a bad check?
A:
The district attorney's Bad Check Restitution Program may be able to help you. Call (800) 584-3201.

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Q: I want a divorce. Or, I want to sue someone. Or, I want to adopt a child. Can the District Attorney's Office help me?
A:
No. The District Attorney's Office cannot provide legal advice or take legal action in such matters. You should consult with a private attorney.

If you do not have a lawyer, you can call Legal Aid, Inland Counties Legal Services at (951) 683-7108. Or you can call the Riverside County Bar Association's Lawyer Referral Service in Riverside at (951) 682-7520 or the Desert Bar Association in Palm Desert at (760) 568-5555.

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Q: I want a restraining order to keep my husband/wife, boyfriend/girlfriend, or other person away from me. Will the District Attorney's Office do this for me?
A:
No. But a private attorney may be able to help you. If you do not have a lawyer, you can call the Riverside County Bar Association's Lawyer Referral Service at (951) 682-7520 or the Desert Bar Association in Palm Desert at (760) 568-5555 for direction in how to do it yourself.

For information and assistance, you can also contact Shelter From the Storm (800-328-SAFE) or the District Attorney's Division of Victim Services in Riverside at (951) 955-5450, in Indio at (760) 863-8408, or in Murrieta at (951) 304-5680.

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Q: I need child support. Can you help me?
A:
No. Contact the Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) which handles child/family support issues. You can visit the DCSS website, or call DCSS in Riverside at (951) 955-4100 or in Indio at (760) 863-7100.

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Q: I was issued a citation and released by the police. Can you tell me if the District Attorney's Office has filed charges against me?
A:
To find out whether charges have been filed against you or your attorney may find that out by calling the District Attorney's Office in Riverside at (951) 955-5400, in Indio at (760) 863-8216, or in Murrieta at (951) 304-5400.

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Q: Can I talk to Michael Hestrin? I think he's the person who is working on my case.
A:
Mr. Hestrin is the elected District Attorney of Riverside County, and, as such, his name appears on most court documents and office correspondence just above the name of the prosecutor who prepared the document. Therefore the person who is working on your case is most likely the person who actually signed the court document or the office correspondence. Please call our offices in Riverside at (951) 955-5400, in Indio at (760) 863-8216, or in Murrieta at (951) 304-5400 to talk with the prosecutor handling your case or to arrange a meeting.

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Q: What is an arraignment?
A:
An arraignment is a hearing in court in which the defendant is formally charged with an offense, given a copy of the complaint, and informed of his/her constitutional rights. The defendant enters a plea of "guilty" or "not guilty" at this hearing.

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Q: What is an FSC (Felony Settlement Conference)?
A:
An FSC takes place after the arraignment and before the preliminary hearing. It is a hearing in front of the judge in which the prosecutor and defense attorney may update the judge about any negotiations to possibly settle the case. Sometimes more than one FSC occurs before the preliminary hearing.

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Q: What is a preliminary hearing?
A:
The preliminary hearing is not a trial. It is a hearing in court at which witnesses testify and the judge decides if there is enough evidence to require the defendant to stand trial and, if so, on what charges. A jury is not present; the judge alone makes the decision.

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Q: What is a TRC (Trial Readiness Conference)?
A:
A TRC takes place after the preliminary hearing and before the trial. This is a meeting of attorneys on both sides before a judge to inform the court as to how the case is proceeding, what documents have been shared, any settlement negotiations, probable length of trial, and other matters relevant to moving the case toward trial.

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Q: How can you represent criminals and help them get away with it?
A:
Defense attorneys defend those who are charged with crimes. Deputy district attorneys prosecute people who they believe are guilty of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt.

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Q: What if I have a question that is not answered in your FAQ's?
A:
Call or visit one of our branch offices. Our receptionists will try to help you get your answers. However, the Riverside County District Attorney's Office is not a free legal clinic or a clearinghouse of legal information. We cannot give legal advice on private legal issues.

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