UNDERSTANDING THE LEGAL PROCESS
Understanding the legal process, which includes the criminal and juvenile justice systems, can be very difficult. There are three main parts in the legal process: police, courts and corrections (jails/prisons). The victims are represented by the police who investigate the crime, district attorneys who prosecute the offenders and advocates who explain the process of the legal system and ensure the rights of victims of crime. The services of the police, district attorneys and advocates are all free.
A victim of crime may become involved in the criminal justice system, if the offender is 18 or older. If the offender is younger than 18, the victim would become involved in the juvenile justice system. Sometimes an offender who is under the age of 18 may be tried as an adult in the criminal justice system due to the seriousness of the crime.
There are rules and laws that must be followed in both the criminal and juvenile justice systems. The offenders have rights that are protected by laws and by the defense attorneys who represent them. Judges also make sure that the rights of offenders are protected by the police, the district attorney and the courts.
You may want to talk with an advocate within a Victim Service Program in your county. This advocate will explain to you what is happening at each step as your case proceeds through either the criminal or juvenile justice systems.