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General FAQ's
What is the role of the District Attorney?
To represent the citizens of the City of Philadelphia in all criminal trials.

How do I report a crime?
All crimes, emergency and non-emergency, should be reported by calling 911. The only crimes reported to the District Attorney's Office are private criminal complaints at 34 South 11th Street, 6th floor. For more information regarding private criminal complaints refer to the frequently asked questions section, Private Criminal Complaint FAQ's.

Can you provide me with legal advice?
No. The District Attorney's Office cannot give advisory opinions, that is, we can not offer legal advice relating to a criminal act or a particular criminal case.

Where can I go for help with landlord-tenant disputes or contractual disputes?
Municipal Court of Philadelphia
34 South 11th Street, Room 500
(215) 686-7987
Who should I contact for help with arguments or name calling?
Human Relations Commission
(215) 686-4670
Where can I go for information concerning child custody, support and divorce matters?
You should contact the following resources that are available to provide information:
  • Philadelphia Legal Assistance (215) 981-3800
  • Women's Law Project (215) 928-9801
  • omeless Advocacy Project (215) 523-9595
Where do I file for child custody?
Domestic Relations, Custody Matters
46 South 11th Street
(215) 686-9208, 9209, 9211

Does the District Attorney provide assistance with child custody matters?
No, the District Attorney's Office does not handle child custody cases.

Where do I file for child support?
Domestic Relations, Intake Unit
34 South 11th Street
(215) 686-9114, 9120

NOTE: Please contact the office prior to arrival to discuss the necessary information that must be brought to the office

Does the District Attorney provide assistance with child support matters?
The District Attorney's Office only gets involved in a child support case when there is a violation of a court order for child support that is in arrears.

I was the victim of a crime and the perpetrator was arrested and charged with a misdemeanor. What happens now?
If the defendant is charged with a misdemeanor he will be tried in Municipal Court. All Municipal Court cases are first listed in Courtroom 406 in the Criminal Justice Center, 1301 Filbert Street. It is not necessary for you to appear at this listing. However, you will receive a letter and a victim witness questionnaire, which will inform you of the status of your case and ask that you list your losses in the questionnaire and return it to the Victim Witness Unit. For more information refer to Services for Victims and Witnesses.

I was the victim of a crime and the perpetrator was arrested and charged with a felony. What happens now?
If the defendant is charged with a felony, a preliminary hearing will be held before the trial. Most preliminary hearings are held at the local Police District. The preliminary hearing is usually scheduled three to ten days after the defendant is arrested. The trial, however, in Common Pleas Court will be several months after the preliminary hearing. If you have any questions about your case during this period of time you should contact the Victim Witness Unit at (215) 686-8027 or email DA.Victimservices@phila.gov.

I was a victim of crime. Do I need to get an attorney?
It is not necessary for you to have an attorney in a criminal case. The Assistant District Attorney for the Commonwealth represents your interests.

I was a victim of crime. Where can I go for help?
Refer to the Victim Assistance section for a listing of all the services available from the District Attorney's Office and additional resources available to you as a victim of crime.

What are the different types of proceedings?

Preliminary Hearing: The preliminary hearing is scheduled in all felony cases within three to ten days of defendant's arrest. At this hearing the Commonwealth must establish that there is enough evidence to hold the defendant for trial in Common Pleas Court. If the case is "held for court" the witnesses will be required to appear at the trial in the Criminal Justice Center.
Arraignment: At arraignment the defendant is formally charged with the crime and given a date for trial. Arraignments are held approximately two weeks after the preliminary hearing. No witnesses appear at this listing of the case. After the arraignment, witnesses are notified by mail of the trial date.
Trial: At the trial in Common Pleas Court, the Assistant District Attorney will present all the facts of the case to the judge and/or the jury. This will include testimony from the victim, witnesses and the police officers involved in the case. At this time the judge and/or jury will decide whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty, based on the testimony heard that day. If that case is a misdemeanor, a witness' first appearance will be for the actual trial in Municipal Court.
Sentencing: In misdemeanor cases, the defendant is usually sentenced on the same day as the trial. In felony cases, the sentencing is usually set for a later date. A victim is not required to appear at the sentencing; however, they are encouraged to attend.

What is a subpoena?
If you are a victim of a crime or a witness to a crime, you will receive a subpoena. A subpoena is an order directing you to appear as a witness in court. You may not ignore such an order. You are required to appear at the time and place stated on the subpoena. You may receive your subpoena by mail or in person and at times, the subpoena will be updated by telephone. Please bring your subpoena to court with you. Be sure to save your subpoena, as it contains important information about your case.

What is the purpose of bail?
Bail is used to ensure the defendant's appearance in court. Bail is set by a Bail Commissioner at the preliminary arraignment. The seriousness of the crime is only one of the factors the Bail Commissioner considers when setting bail. Also considered is the status of the defendant's employment, family, age, residence and any other factors relevant to the defendant's release when money, property or bond is posted for bail. If bail is not posted, the defendant will remain in custody until able to post bond.

What can I expect in the courtroom?
The judge, the defendant, the defendant's attorney, you the victim, witnesses, the Assistant District Attorney and the police officers involved in the case will be present in the courtroom. When you are called to testify you will be sworn to tell the truth. The Assistant District Attorney will ask you what you know about the case. When questioning is complete, the defendant's attorney will then ask you questions about the case. The judge will only want to hear the facts pertaining to this particular case. Usually, witnesses (including the crime victim) will be directed to leave the courtroom during the testimony of other witnesses.

What if the defendant's attorney contacts me?
Before your appearance in court you may be contacted by the defendant's attorney or an investigator. You can refuse to speak with them. The decision whether or not to speak with them is completely up to you, not them. We suggest that you always know the identity of the person to whom you are speaking. It is possible that some people may misrepresent themselves in a way that creates the impression they work for the government. Ask for formal identification, their name and phone number and call the District Attorney's Victim Witness Unit for assistance.

What if the defendant or someone from the defendant's family contacts me?
As a condition of bail, the defendant is not allowed to harass, threaten, or intimidate a victim or witness in a case. It is a crime to do so. It is also a crime for the defendant, or anyone acting on behalf of the defendant, to offer you money or any benefit to alter your testimony or to "drop charges." If any of these things occur, the court has the option to revoke the defendant's bail or the District Attorney can bring additional charges against the defendant. If the defendant or someone on his behalf contacts, harasses, threatens or intimidates you, contact the District Attorney's Victim Witness Unit for assistance at (215) 686-8027 or email DA.Victimservices@phila.gov.

What if I move before the trial or change my phone number?
It is very important to keep the District Attorney's Office informed of your current address so that we can keep you informed of the status of your case. If you should move or change your phone number, contact the District Attorney's Victim Witness Unit at (215) 686-8027 or email DA.Victimservices@phila.gov.

What happens if one of the persons arrested in my case is a juvenile?
A juvenile is a person who is under 18 years of age when a crime occurs. If a juvenile was arrested, the juvenile's case generally will be separated from the adult defendant. The juvenile's hearing will be held at the Family Court Building at 1801 Vine Street. For further information contact our Juvenile Victim Witness Unit at (215) 686-4094. For more information refer to Juvenile Offenders and Juvenile Victims of Adult Offenders section.

What is A.R.D.?
A.R.D. stands for Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition. Cases involving relatively less serious offenses and defendants with very little or no criminal record are routinely placed in the A.R.D. program. Defendants placed in the A.R.D. program must agree to a probationary sentence with conditions imposed by the judge such as restitution to the victim. If the defendant completes the sentence, any record is automatically expunged. If the defendant fails to complete the sentence, the case will go to trial. In minor assault cases the victim must agree to A.R.D.

How do I locate an inmate?
The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections website at www.cor.state.pa.us

What is restitution?
Restitution is an order of the court for the defendant to reimburse the victim for out-of-court pocket expenses incurred as a result of the crime. Restitution is ordered as part of the defendant's sentence. For more information refer to Services for Victims and Witnesses.

The Judge ordered restitution and I haven't received anything yet. Who should I contact?
The Philadelphia Probation and Parole Department is responsible for overseeing that defendants pay court ordered restitution. You can contact the Probation and Parole Department at (215) 683-1000.