Domestic Violence FAQ
What is a crime of Domestic Violence?
A crime of Domestic Violence (DV) is any crime involving individuals who are currently or have had in the past an intimate and/or dating relationship. It may include a physical assault. It may also include, but is not limited to, the following types of cases: damage to property, theft, refusing a request to leave, violation of a protection order, disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace, etc.
A police report has been filed and the suspect was not arrested at the scene. What happens next?
If they were not arrested at the scene and the crime involves Domestic Violence (DV), the police report will be further investigated by law enforcement. If that further investigation reveals sufficient evidence to believe a crime has been committed, the police will give that information to the County Attorney’s office for review. If the police do not believe a crime has occurred or that there is insufficient evidence to proceed in a criminal case, no further action will be taken.
If the County Attorney’s office believes sufficient evidence exists, appropriate charges will be filed, which may include the prosecutor’s request of the County Court for an arrest warrant for the suspect.
A police report has been filed and the suspect was arrested at the time of the incident or arrested on a warrant, what happens next?
The next step is usually an arraignment hearing. Arraignments are generally done every weekday at 1:30 p.m. on the next business day after the arrest, excluding holidays. The Judge will tell the defendant what they are charged with and the possible penalties. They will be granted an appearance bond, which will require that they have no contact with their victim. That means they are not to visit, telephone, e-mail, text, or in any way communicate with their victim. The accused will have the opportunity to hire an attorney, or be appointed one if they cannot afford one. The defendant may enter a plea of guilty or no contest, and the next hearing will be a sentencing; or a plea of not guilty, and a trial date will be set.
The Judge issued a No Contact Order, what does that mean?
It is a condition of bond in all cases of Domestic Violence, issued by the Judge at arraignment that forbids contact with the listed victim, or victims, until the case is resolved. It is the policy of the Buffalo County Attorney’s Office to uphold and defend that “No Contact Order,” even if the victim does not wish one. The Defendant may be charged with an additional crime if he/she violates that order, and may also have his/her bond revoked or increased as a result of violating said order.
How can I find out if an offender is still in jail?
Contact VINE at 877-NE 4 VINE or (877) 634-8463, or online at www.vinelink.com.
I posted bond for someone, how do I get that money back?
If a Defendant can post the bond, it will be released to the Defendant, regardless of who posted the bond. The bond will be released upon the resolution to the defendant, unless otherwise ordered by the court.
What if I want to drop charges and/or recant the statements made to the Police?
Our office will not drop charges, generally speaking. Charges are filed by the State of Nebraska, not the alleged victim. It is the best interest of the State of Nebraska and the alleged victim to see that any person accused of Domestic Violence be held accountable for their actions. Domestic Violence poses a danger not only to the victim, but also to the victim’s family and society as a whole. The State of Nebraska has a “no-drop” policy to protect not just the individual victim and to ensure that there is no further violence perpetrated by the accused.
What will happen at a trial?
There are two types of trials: Jury or Bench. A Bench trial is decided by a judge only. A Jury trial is decided by a group of citizens. At both trials there is evidence presented. The witnesses will testify as to what they saw and heard. Evidence may include witness testimony, copies of 911 call recordings, photographs of injuries and the scene, hospital and doctor reports, telephone records, and more. The witnesses will be cross-examined. After all of the evidence is presented there will be a decision of guilty or not guilty.
Will I have to testify?
The majority of DV cases are resolved prior to trial by a plea agreement. However, if such an agreement cannot be reached, you will receive a subpoena that court-orders you to appear and testify at trial.
What could the potential sentence be upon a finding of guilt?
The sentence depends upon the crime charged. Judges have great latitude in sentencing offenders. They may order the defendant to pay a fine, be placed on probation, or serve time in jail or prison, or may order a combination of those things.
As a part of probation, a judge may order the defendant to pay restitution. In order for restitution to be paid, the defendant must be eligible to be placed on probation OR to have posted sufficient bond to pay the requested amount of restitution. Only those victims listed in a police report who have been reported to have damage to property may be given restitution. Victims may be required to submit a victim impact statement and documentation for any restitution they desire. If no restitution is at issue, a victim may, through a victim impact statement, tell the sentencing judge in writing how they feel about the event and what they think ought to be done with the offender.
How do I find out what time/date the trial will be?
Victims and witnesses will be personally notified in writing of the date, time, and location of the trial. Victims and witnesses will receive a letter and legal document called a subpoena that court orders them to appear on the date of trial. It is important to communicate with the prosecutor in preparation for trial.
What if I received a subpoena but cannot testify?
A subpoena is a legal document that court orders someone’s appearance. If that person choose to ignore the subpoena and does not appear, a judge may find them in contempt of court and issue a warrant for their arrest.
If you cannot appear for some legitimate reason, you should call the prosecutor assigned to your case and explain. The prosecutor may then ask the court to continue the trial or hearing, and there may be a hearing on that request. The hearing will be held in front of the judge assigned and the Defendant and his/her attorney will be present. Continuances are only granted in extreme circumstances.
What is my role in the case and how/when will I be contacted?
The Buffalo County Attorney’s Office encourages victims to be involved in the legal process. A member of our office or the Kearney Police Department Victim/Witness Unit will contact victims to let them know when a Defendant is scheduled to be arraigned, and also after the arraignment so that they have information as to future court dates, appearance bonds, and any other conditions of a Defendant’s release.
The prosecutor assigned to the case is also available to answer any questions a victim may have, and to consult with them regarding any potential plea agreements negotiated with the defendant’s attorney. The victim will be notified of any pending sentencing dates or other important hearings.
For information about the status of a case, call the Kearney Police Department Victim/Witness Unit at (308) 237-5263, or call the County Attorney’s Office at (308) 236-1222.
Where can I get help?
You are not alone in this process. There are several organizations that specialize in domestic violence issues that are waiting to help you through the process. The Kearney Police Department Victim/Witness Unit (308-237-5263) is here to provide support services for you. The S.A.F.E. Center also offers many resources for victims of domestic violence and their families.
How can I get a Protection Order?
If you are in fear of your safety, you may obtain a court order to prevent an individual from contacting you. Information and downloadable forms are available online. Or, contact the Buffalo County Clerk of the District Court to obtain them. The S.A.F.E. Center can be a source of information also. Finally, the Kearney Police Department’s Victim/Witness Unit can provide information.