Frequently Asked Questions

What is the District Attorney's jurisdiction? [TOP]
The San Diego County District Attorney's Office prosecutes felony crimes throughout San Diego County. The jurisdiction covers 42-hundred square miles. This area stretches from the northern areas of Oceanside and Vista to the eastern area of Alpine all the way to the US Mexican border at Imperial Beach and Tecate. The District Attorney's Office also prosecutes misdemeanor crimes in unincorporated areas of the County as well as all cities within the County other than the city of San Diego. The San Diego District Attorney's Office is the second largest in the state of California and the sixth largest in the nation. We serve a population of approximately three million people.

If I get a subpoena do I have to go to court? [TOP]
Yes, you must go to court. If you fail to do so, the judge may impose a fine or a jail sentence. Be sure to bring your subpoena with you to court.

Why am I a witness? I didn't see the crime happen. [TOP]
Witnesses are not limited to eye witnesses. You may not have seen the crime happen but you may know something about it. You may also know something about a piece of evidence, or you may know something that contradicts another witness's testimony. If you wonder why you are testifying in a particular case, ask the prosecutor handling it. There is probably a common-sense reason.

As a witness, do I have to talk in front of the defendant in court? [TOP]
Yes. The defendant must be present in court to hear what all the witnesses say about him/her. The lawyer for the defendant is called the defense attorney and will ask you questions after the prosecutor does.

Is the district attorney my attorney or do I need to get my own attorney? [TOP]
The district attorney represents the People of the State of California in criminal court. The district attorney does not have authority to prosecute civil cases on behalf of individual citizens.

If I miss work to testify, will the district attorney pay for my loss in wages? [TOP]
No. Witnesses must go to court to testify about matters that they have knowledge of. It is a civic duty imposed upon all citizens in order to insure a just and fair judicial system.

Where is the court? [TOP]
Criminal Courts are located in downtown San Diego, Vista, El Cajon and in Chula Vista. The Juvenile Court is located in Kearny Mesa. Please see Office Locations for directions or call our main number at 619-531-4040.

Who decides what charges to file, and how do they make that decision? [TOP]
A deputy district attorney reviews cases brought to the District Attorney's Office by local law enforcement agencies. The attorney reviews the reports in light of current law to decide the appropriate filing decisions.

What is plea bargaining? And do I as a victim have anything to say about it? [TOP]
There are not enough prosecutors, judges, or courtrooms to try before a jury, all the thousands of cases filed each year in San Diego County. For those defendants taken to trial, or for those who plead guilty before a trial, there are not enough jail cells in the state to hold them. These practical demands plus the defendant's right to a speedy trial, the seriousness of the cases, the strengths or weaknesses of cases, the victim's wishes, public safety, punishment, rehabilitation, and deterrence are all interests that are considered by the prosecutor when deciding how to proceed. A plea agreement is always designed to balance these competing interests. Most cases are resolved in a relatively short time by the defendant's plea - many times a plea to the charged offense.

I was the victim of a crime. Can you tell me the name of the defendant and the defendant's next court date? [TOP]
The DA's Office can provide you with the name of the defendant and the next court date if we have filed charges against the defendant. To obtain this information, please visit our News Room or Case Appearance list. You may also call the main number at 619-531-4040.

What is an arraignment? [TOP]
The arraignment is a hearing in court in which the defendant is formally charged with an offense, given a copy of the complaint, and informed of his/her constitutional rights. The defendant enters a plea of guilty or not guilty at this hearing.

What is a preliminary hearing? [TOP]
The preliminary hearing is not a trial. It is a hearing in court at which witnesses testify and the judge decides if there is enough evidence to require the defendant to stand trial. The jury is not present; the judge alone makes the decision.

Can you provide me with legal advice? [TOP]
No. The District Attorney's Office is prevented by law from answering legal questions or offering legal advice (California Business & Professions Code section 6131).

How do I report a crime? [TOP]
All crime reports should be directed to the law enforcement agency in the area where the crime occurred. The District Attorney's Office does not take crime reports. If you're trying to report an emergency situation, call 911 on your telephone to be connected to the emergency services you require.

However, there are some exceptions. Crimes involving consumer fraud, environmental crimes or those involving misconduct of public officials may be reported to the District Attorney's specialized divisions. Call us directly at 619-531-4040.

How do I get a copy of a police report? [TOP]
Contact the police agency that created the report to obtain a copy.

Can I gain access to criminal records online? [TOP]
There is no mechanism in place for public access to criminal records online. Contact the San Diego Superior Court for this information.

Where do I find a list of all District Attorney employees and their email addresses? [TOP]
For security reasons, none is provided. If you would like to contact an employee, email us and we will forward your correspondence to that employee. You may also call 619-531-4040 to be connected to that employee or his/her voicemail.

How do I find what employment opportunities exist in your office? [TOP]
County Job Opportunities.

I'm a victim of identity theft. How can I restore my credit? [TOP]
California law offers powerful solutions for victims of identity theft. For steps you can take to prevent identity theft or clear your credit report of negative entries resulting from this crime, see Identity Theft or CATCH Team.

How can I have my criminal record expunged? [TOP]
Because there are different procedures depending on what the crime was and how the sentencing was handled, you need to go to the court that convicted you and request, from the clerk's office - criminal window, the correct forms and procedures for expungement. A judge will then come to a decision that could reduce your conviction from a felony to a misdemeanor or a misdemeanor to dismissal. Another approach is to request clemency from the Governor of California and the Public Defender's Office will assist you in accomplishing this or you can hire your own attorney. With this approach your record is not expunged, but you're given clemency.

Whom can I talk to about a consumer-related problem? [TOP]
Consumer Protection Unit

How do I verify if a business is operating legitimately or if it has been the subject of complaints? [TOP]
The Better Business Bureau provides information about businesses and consumer complaints.

I think I've been cheated by a contractor/ tradesman/ shopkeeper [or other person who provides labor or services]. Can the DA's office help me? [TOP]
The DA's Consumer Protection Unit may be able to help or the staff may refer you to another agency that can assist you.

I am a merchant. Can the DA's Office help me collect on a bad check? [TOP]
Our Check Enforcement Program is offered to assist merchants and individuals in fighting back against bad check writers. Call Toll Free: 1-888-240-6495 or Toll Free FAX: 1-866-713-2494

Where do I go to make a complaint about a problem with a privately retained attorney? [TOP]
The California State Bar Association takes complaints against attorneys, investigates those complaints, and prosecutes/disciplines attorneys. The District Attorney's Consumer Protection Unit investigates and prosecutes unauthorized practitioners of law, including non-attorneys posing as attorneys and attorneys who have been disbarred.

Where do I find information on family support? Who can I talk to about wages garnished for child support? [TOP]
The San Diego County Child Support Services Department has assumed legal responsibility for child support operations formerly performed by the District Attorney's Office. Contact 866-9013212 for assistance.

I am the victim in a domestic violence case and I want to drop charges. Can I do that? [TOP]
Many people incorrectly believe that a victim has the power to "press charges" against the abuser, or to later "drop the charges." All criminal complaints are prosecuted on behalf of the State of California. ONLY the prosecutor can issue or dismiss charges. Although the decision whether to prosecute or not prosecute is ultimately up to the prosecutor, the victim's opinion is important and the prosecutor will take those wishes into account when making his or her decisions regarding the case. A variety of factors are taken into consideration when deciding whether to honor a complainant's request not to proceed with a prosecution. These include the nature and extent of the defendant's prior criminal history, the severity of the alleged crime, whether the defendant has other pending charges in the criminal justice system, and future danger to the community (including the current victim).

I was the victim of a violent crime. What services are available to me? [TOP]
Our Victim Assistance Program offers a variety services to victims of crime. You can also contact the Government Claims Board at 800-777-9229.

I want to file a complaint about a police officer (or sheriff). Can the District Attorney help me? [TOP]
No. You'll need to report the matter to the officer's employing agency. That agency is required by law to receive a complaint, investigate the matter, and respond back to the complaining party.

I have a complaint against the DA's office. How do I contact you and will you respond? [TOP]
Email us and we will contact you in writing, by telephone, or schedule an appointment.

I think someone is using my credit cards (or has stolen my driver's license). Can the DA help me? [TOP]
If you are a victim of identity theft, you may contact District Attorney's CATCH Team at 858-737-7171. You may also call the California Department of Justice Identity Theft Registry 1-888-880-0240 or the Identify Theft Resource Center 1-858-693-7935. To obtain a copy of the ID Theft Affidavit form for reporting identity theft, go to www.consumer.gov/idtheft, and also see "When Bad Things Happen to Your Good Name" on the same page. Report the identity theft crime to the Federal Trade Commission for entry into the Consumer Sentinel database.

Where can I find information about obtaining a restraining order? [TOP]
The California Courts Self-Help Web Site explains what a restraining order is, the various types of restraining orders, how to obtain a restraining order and much more.

Can you help me clear up a felony warrant I have against me? [TOP]
The District Attorney's Office is prohibited by state law and the California State Bar Rules from providing legal assistance or advice to a defendant. You may contact the San Diego County Public Defender’s Office at 450 B Street, Suite 110, San Diego CA 92101. Telephone: (619) 338-4700 Fax: (619) 338-4811 for advice about how to handle your felony warrant. The Public Defender provides legal assistance to individuals charged with a crime in state court who are financially unable to retain private counsel. You can find them online.

What if I have a question that is not answered in you FAQ's? [TOP]
Call or visit one of our branch offices. Our receptionists will try to assist you. However, the San Diego County District Attorney's Office is not a free legal clinic or a clearinghouse of legal information. We cannot give legal advice on private legal issues.