What Should I Expect During the Legal Process?
Both the civil and criminal systems can feel incredibly difficult to navigate and can take a long time to get through. To help you better understand how courts generally operate and what to expect if you are starting a civil case please visit the WomensLaw.org resource on Preparing for Court. This will assist you in filing for a protection order or starting any other type of civil action on your own.
If you are pursuing criminal charges, the district attorney (sometimes called the state’s attorney or the prosecutor) will be the person moving the case forward. The district attorney does not represent you but will consider what you would like to see happen with the case. It is important to remember that as a victim of a crime you, too, have certain rights. For specific information about the criminal process or to find your state’s crime victim rights, please visit the National Center for Victims of Crime website. Here you will find information about the criminal and civil systems as well as resources for crime victim compensation and civil litigation.
For support throughout the process, you may want to reach out to the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 - they are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They can help connect you with someone locally.
What Do Courts Look for when Accepting Evidence?
Courts primarily look for two things- Authenticity and the Form of Evidence.
- Authenticity - Courts generally look to see if a piece of evidence can be authenticated. This means that they can tell that the piece of evidence you’re presenting is what you say it is. A text message or a screen shot of a message showing the date, time, and sender helps corroborate (back up) what you are telling the court.
- Form of Evidence – Usually, courts will have information regarding how evidence should be brought to court and whether or not cell phones are allowed in the courtroom. Be sure to check your local court’s website or a court clerk for this information. Generally, courts will want you to print out your evidence rather than just bringing your cell phone to show the judge. Printing out everything and having it in order will greatly assist the court in assessing your evidence. If you are unable to print, call the court to ask if they have suggestions on presenting your evidence. Always save the original email, post, or message in case more details are required.
How Does Evidence of Technology-Related Abuse Differ and What Do I Need to Collect?
If you’re collecting evidence of technology-related abuse, such as online harassment, social media posts, emails, or other types of messages, it’s important to keep and document the original message/post. A forward of an email, for example, will no longer be traceable to the original sender. For some tech-related evidence, specific information will be needed. On social media, for example, the URL of the person’s profile will be necessary to identify the poster. For more information on what details to collect for different platforms (social media, text messages, etc), see the Documenting Abuse section and the article on How to Gather Technology Abuse Evidence for Court. To learn more about digital evidence, visit WomensLaw.org’s Abuse Using Technology page.
What Happens to the Evidence I Give the Court?
Generally, the evidence you have entered will stay with the court file for record purposes. It is unlikely you will get information returned to you. If you are presenting your device to the court and not a print out, be prepared that the court could take your device until they make a ruling on the case. It is recommended that printouts be provided rather than the actual physical device.
For More Information, visit –
- WomensLaw.org Secure Email Hotline for legal information.
- WomensLaw.org Finding a Lawyer provides information on getting legal assistance in your state.