What happens when I call the police?

Once the police have been called, if it is during the violence, or immediately after, the police will make sure everyone is safe, and possibly arrest the person committing the crime. Then, they begin the investigation. The purpose of the police investigation is to collect evidence. The police may talk to witnesses, take pictures, inspect the scene where the violence happened, and look for any other evidence. Once the police finish the investigation, they turn over the evidence to the prosecutor.

The prosecutor is a lawyer who works for the government. Because crimes are things that we as a society think are wrong, the prosecutor represents the interests of all of society by prosecuting people accused of crimes. The prosecutor is the person who decides whether there is enough evidence to go forward with a case against the defendant (the person accused of the crime). If there is not enough evidence, the prosecutor will drop the charges. If there is enough evidence, the prosecutor will go forward with the charges.

A defendant who is 18 or older will be tried in an adult criminal court. In adult criminal court, a jury hears all the evidence and the prosecutor’s case against the defendant, and they are the ones to decide whether the evidence proves that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Defendants who are under 18, however, will usually be tried in juvenile court. In juvenile court, there is no jury. A judge is the one who hears all the evidence and decides whether or not the defendant is guilty.

Whether a judge or a jury hears the case, if the defendant is found guilty, a judge decides what the sentence – the punishment – should be. The punishment is often prison or jail time, but also can be things like probation, community service, or a fine.

Remember that as the victim, your only role in the criminal case is to be a witness. It is important to understand that once you call the police, you probably will not have any control over whether the prosecutor presses charges or if the abuser is found guilty.

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