Helping Victims Through the Court System

Victims of Domestic Violence confront daily struggles, dealing with mental, emotional, and physical abuse from their partners/spouses/family members. We understand that the Criminal Justice system can be difficult to understand.  The following may help explain some common terms and procedures:

The Complaint.  A criminal investigation begins with a complaint. The complaint may result from either a call to the police, sheriff’s office, or 911 Emergency, or a call from a concerned neighbor or family member, or any other observation or initiation of a complaint to local law enforcement. In Washington and St. Tammany parishes, law enforcement officials (i.e. local police agencies or sheriff’s office), must investigate every complaint. Thus, a victim who calls 911 can expect a visit from local law enforcement.

The Investigation.  The law enforcement agency will conduct its investigation.

Arrest or Summons.  When the law enforcement agency discovers “probable cause” that a crime has occurred, officers must either make an arrest or issue a summons to the batterer. If the officer makes an arrest, the batterer will go to jail for booking and formal processing. Depending on the charges asserted by law enforcement, a bond shall be determined by a judge. If the batterer can bond out of jail, the batterer is issued the “arraignment date” to appear in court. If a summons is issued to the batterer, the summons shall indicate the batterer’s arraignment date to appear in court. An “arraignment date” is a court appearance during which the District Attorney’s office informs a batterer (the defendant) of the charges filed against him/her by the State of Louisiana.

Bill of Information.  Following summons or arrest, the law enforcement agency will complete a report and forward it to the District Attorney’s office.  The information will be screened and evaluated as to the legal sufficiency for prosecution and the determination of formal charges.

Trial.  If the batterer/defendant pleads not guilty at Arraignment, a Trial date is set. After the arraignment, the District Attorney’s office will contact or attempt to contact the victim(s) and keep them informed of the proceedings and prepare for trial. For more information about how this process works, please review the Victim Assistance Program section on this website.

Updated Victim Information.  If a victim moves, relocates, disconnects his/her phone lines, our attempts to contact the Victim(s) may be unsuccessful. If you are a Victim or know a Victim that has moved or disconnected his/her phone, please contact our office, so we may maintain accurate Victim information.

If you are a victim and have questions, please do not hesitate to call the Domestic Violence Unit. It is our priority to protect the victims’ safety and to prevent them from feeling victimized by the legal system. Establishing a productive relationship with the victim is important to the success of our program.

Please watch this video of our D.A. and his domestic violence ADA’s and victim witness coordinator as they talk about Domestic Violence.