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City of Philadelphia


Frequently Asked Questions regarding the legal process

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. For more information regarding private criminal complaints click here.

How do I file a Right to Know request?

For more information about how to file a right to know request, please click here.

Where can I find a list of programs and services available from the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office?

For a list of programs and services, please click here.

Where can I find a list of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office’s Divisions, Bureaus, and Units?

For a list, and contact information, for the Office’s Divisions, Bureaus, and Units; please click here.

What can I expect in the courtroom?

The judge, the defendant, the defendant's attorney, victims, witnesses, the Assistant District Attorney, and the police officers involved in the case will all be present in the courtroom. This is a formal proceeding that takes place in front of a judge and jury. 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 the 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 the particular case.

What if I move before the trial or change my phone number?

It is important to keep the District Attorney's Office informed of your current address so the Office 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 Services Unit at 215-686-8027 or email For additional information, see the Trial Divisions page.

I think my child has been a victim of child abuse? What should I do?

If you suspect child abuse, call 911 immediately and seek medical assistance for the child. You can also contact one of the Office’s Victim Witness Coordinators at 215-686-8011 or 215-686-8084.

Who do I call if I think I am a victim of elder abuse?

If you believe you are a victim of elder abuse, call 911. The Philadelphia Police Department will investigate, prepare a report and, where appropriate, arrest the perpetrator.

I am a victim of Sexual Assault. What should I do?

If you have been the victim of sexual assault, it is important to seek medical attention immediately. Please call 911 or the Philadelphia Police Department Special Victims Unit at 215-685-3251 for transportation to the Philadelphia Sexual Assault Response Center (PSARC). Please do NOT shower, eat, drink, or smoke before going to the PSARC, as this may destroy evidence. At the PSARC, you will receive a comprehensive medical examination and treatment for possible sexually transmitted infections, and forensic evidence will be collected. You will also have the opportunity to be connected with a counselor who can offer support and answer your questions. If you would like to report a past sexual assault, contact the Philadelphia Police Department Special Victims Unit at 215-685-3251. You may also contact Women Organized Against Rape (1617 JFK Boulevard, One Penn Center, Suite 1100, Philadelphia, PA 19103; 215-985-3333; or a non-profit organization dedicated to assisting victims of sexual assault, for assistance.

I am the victim of domestic violence. What should I do?

Call 911 immediately. Your information will be referred to the police district you live in and officers will contact you regarding your complaint.

How can I receive a Protection from Abuse Order?

Under the Protection from Abuse Act (PFA), you have the right to go to court and ask a judge to grant a PFA order. PFAs set limits on the contact an abuser has with the person who requests the order. If you would like assistance or information call the Philadelphia Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-866-SAFE-014 or contact the Victim/Witness Services Unit at 215-686-8027. If you are in immediate danger, please call 911.

General Definitions

Arraignment The legal proceeding when a defendant is formally charged with a crime and given a trial date. Arraignments are held approximately two weeks after the preliminary hearing.
Felony - The most serious grade of crime, generally having a maximum penalty of imprisonment for more than five years.
Held for Court The judge’s decision, made at a preliminary hearing, determining that there is enough evidence to hold the defendant for trial in Common Pleas Court.
Misdemeanor – A crime that generally has a maximum penalty of imprisonment of less than five years. If the defendant is charged with a misdemeanor he or she will be tried in Municipal Court.
Preliminary Hearing – A hearing before a judge to determine whether there is enough evidence to bring the case to trial.
Sentencing – After a defendant is found guilty, he or she receives the punishment associated with their crime from a judge.
Subpoena – An order directing a victim of a crime or a witness to a crime to appear at a specific time in court. Subpoenas can arrive by mail or in person. Please remember to bring your subpoena with you when you arrive in court.
Testimony – Evidence given under oath in response to questions asked by attorneys during formal proceedings
Trial – The legal proceeding when an Assistant District Attorney presents the facts of a case to the judge and/or the jury. At the trial’s conclusion, the judge and/or jury decides whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty, based on the presented evidence.

Contact Us

Main Office
Three South Penn Square
Corner of Juniper and South Penn Square
Philadelphia, PA 19107-3499

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