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Coming to Court

Since most people are not familiar with courtrooms and court proceedings, we in the United States Attorney’s Office would like to give you some general information about preparing for court and some information about testifying. We hope this information will answer any questions you may have and make you more comfortable about the entire process.


 LOCATION: All federal grand jury proceedings are conducted at 517 E. Wisconsin Avenue, Milwaukee, WI 53202

PARTICIPANTS: Unlike trials, the only people allowed in the grand jury room are the court reporter, the grand jurors, the Assistant U.S. Attorney presenting the case, and the witness who is testifying. There is no judge in grand jury.

TIME: The grand jury generally meets from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Tuesdays.

ABOUT THE GRAND JURY: The Grand Jury is made up of 23 jurors who hear evidence on a criminal case and decide if the evidence presented leads a reasonable person to believe that a crime has been committed. If the jury decides this, they will vote on an indictment which is the formal instrument charging a person with a particular crime(s). The grand jury does NOT decide guilt or innocence, they only decide if it is probable that a crime has been committed. Grand jury proceedings are secret. As stated above, no one is allowed in the grand jury room while the grand jury is in session except the court reporter, the Assistant U.S. Attorney, the grand jurors and the testifying witness. Neither defendants nor defense attorneys are allowed in the grand jury room, in fact, they are usually unaware that a grand jury proceeding is taking place. Grand jurors are not allowed to discuss the cases they hear outside of the grand jury room. Therefore, no one outside of the U.S. Attorney’s office will know a witness is testifying.


LOCATION: In Milwaukee cases, trials are conducted in the U.S. District Courthouse at 517 E. Wisconsin Avenue, Milwaukee, WI 53202. In Green Bay cases, trials are conducted at the U.S. District Courthouse located at 125 South Jefferson Street, Green Bay, WI 54301. Each judge conducts his courtroom and court proceedings in a slightly different manner. You will be given more information about this prior to your testimony, if you are required to testify.

PARTICIPANTS: The judge, jury, court reporter, courtroom deputy, defendant(s), defense attorney(s), prosecutor, the witness testifying and Deputy U.S. Marshals (who provide courtroom security) are all in the courtroom during the trial. Spectators, including representatives of the media, are allowed in the courtroom. Cameras are not allowed in federal court. Other witnesses are not allowed in the courtroom - they wait in a separate room until time to testify.

TIME: Unless there is an unusual circumstances, trials are usually held during the hours of 8:30am to 5:00pm Monday - Friday, with an hour break for lunch.

ABOUT TRIALS: Trials begin with opening remarks from the prosecution, then from the defense. Next, the prosecution begins to present its case. This includes entering evidence into the record, testimony by law enforcement and other professionals, and testimony by witnesses and victim-witnesses. A witness may be on the stand for as little as a few minutes, or as long as a week or more. Trials can take hours, days or even weeks due to numerous objections, lengthy testimony and/or lengthy cross-examination. After the prosecution finishes presenting its case (called resting), the defense may then present a case in a similar fashion. Again, it is hard to predict how long the defense’s case will take since there may be more than one defendant and more than one defense attorney. A defendant has no obligation to present any evidence since the burden is on the prosecution to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Once the defense rests, (or at the close of the prosecution’s case if the defense presents no evidence), the prosecution gives a closing statement to the jury which summarizes the testimony they heard, the evidence presented, and why the prosecution proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt. The defense then makes its closing statement which summarizes their case and why the prosecution did not prove the defendant was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecution is usually allowed a rebuttal closing argument to clarify any points the defense raised during its closing. The judge will then instruct the jury on the law and their duties as jurors. The jury then begins deliberations in the jury room. It is hard to predict how long deliberations will take. Once a vote has been decided, the jury informs the judge, the jury and defendant are brought back into the courtroom, and the judge asks the foreperson for the verdict. The trial is then complete.


Q. What if the Defendant’s Attorney or Investigator Asks to Talk to Me?

You have the right to discuss the case with any attorney or investigator from the Defense if you choose. You also have the right to choose not to speak to the defense. However, be sure you know who you are talking to if you discuss the case. Don’t be afraid to ask for identification. If you decide to speak about the case, TELL THE TRUTH.

Q. What will Happen if I Fail to Appear?

If you have been served with a subpoena and you fail to appear, you may be cited for contempt of court. An arrest warrant could be issued for you.

Q. Where Do I Go to Testify?

Your subpoena will indicate where and when the proceeding will take place. As the court date approaches, you will be contacted by either the Assistant U.S. Attorney, Victim- Witness Staff Person, or case agent as to the exact time and date you will be needed.

Q. Where Can I Park?

Milwaukee Location: There are several parking ramps nearby the courthouse. There is also short-term metered parking on the streets around the Courthouse and the U.S. Attorney’s offices, but we recommend you park in the parking lots, since we will not reimburse you for any parking tickets you may receive.

522 E. Wisconsin Ave.
Flat rate greater than 2 hours.......................$10.00 per day
Hourly rates start at.................................... $4.00 hourly

411 Annex - 520 N. Milwaukee
Early Bird - In by 9 am out after 2 pm..........$6.00 per day
Hourly Starts at...........................................$4.00
Flat rate (hourly available)..........................$15.00 per day

875 E. Wisconsin Ave
In by 9 am out by 6pm................................$10.00 per day
Flat rate (hourly rates available).................$15.00 per day

Phister Structure - 424 E. Wisconsin Ave
Flat rate......................................................$10.00 per day

770 N. Jefferson
In by 11 am out by 7 pm.............................$6.00 per day
Flat Rate (hourly available)........................$15.00 per day

Green Bay Location: There is a lot near the Jefferson Courthouse located on N. Jefferson and Pine Streets. There is additional parking located at the corner of S. Washington and East Walnut Streets, or N. Adams and Cherry Streets. The United States Attorney’s Office located on Doty St. has metered street parking around the building.

Parking rates vary and are subject to change. Witnesses will be reimbursed for this expense as long as they have saved their receipts.

Q. How Long Will I be in Court?

We try to make every effort to get witnesses on and off the stand as quickly as possible and to give witnesses the best estimate of how long we anticipate their testimony will take. But, it is impossible to predict how long witnesses will actually testify at trial. This is due to several factors, including: how many defense attorneys there are (there is no way to predict how long cross examination may take); any motions or objections on evidence or other matters which may delay the proceedings; how many witnesses will be testifying; and miscellaneous problems, including other business presiding before the court which may delay the trial. It is important to arrange your schedule to permit maximum flexibility. You may have to wait to testify for several hours or more. Therefore, you may want to bring reading materials, or something else to occupy your time, while you wait to testify. Remember, grand jury is only a one day proceeding, so you can plan on departing no later than 5:00 p.m. if you are testifying in grand jury.

Q. Where Will I Wait to Testify?

While you are waiting to testify, you will be in a witness room separate from the proceedings. You may be waiting with other witnesses, therefore, it is important that you do not discuss the case or your testimony in front of other witnesses.

Q. Will I be Meeting with the Assistant U.S. Attorney Prior to Testifying?

Yes. Whether you are testifying in grand jury or at trial, you will be asked to meet with the Assistant U.S. Attorney assigned to the case prior to testifying. He or she will go over the subject matter of your testimony and answer any questions you may have about testifying or about the court proceedings. You will be informed about the time and location of this pre-testimony meeting by the Assistant U.S. Attorney or a member of the Victim-Witness staff after you are subpoenaed.

Q. Will I Have to Bring Anything with Me?

If you need to bring anything as evidence, instructions will be in the subpoena that you receive.

Q. What Should I do with My Children?

Courtrooms and grand jury proceedings are not places conducive to children. Therefore, try to find a relative, friend, or neighbor to care for your children. Remember to make sure the person is flexible, since you will not know when you will be done testifying. Babysitting expenses are not reimbursed except on extremely limited circumstances. If you are not able to arrange for child care, contact the Victim-Witness Staff for help.

Q. What Should I Wear?

A neat and clean appearance is very important for any court proceeding. You should be
comfortable, yet nicely dressed for court (i.e., no hats, jeans or shorts, etc.) Avoid chewing gum. Also, the temperature in the Courthouse and in the U.S. Attorney’s offices tends to vary, so it is advisable to bring a sweater or jacket in case you get cold.

Q. Is Food Available?

All District Court Judges and the Federal Grand Jury take an hour lunch break, usually between noon and 1:00pm. You will be allowed a lunch hour at that time. There are several restaurants and snack shops located around the Courthouse and U.S. Attorney’s Offices which are relatively inexpensive and within walking distance.

Q. What About My Employer?

Many witnesses question how to approach their employer about their absence from work during their testimony. If you are experiencing difficulties in this, we will contact your employer and outline your responsibility as a subpoenaed federal witness. In addition, we will provide you with a letter to give your employer at the completion of your testimony, if necessary. Employers may NOT retaliate against you because of your absence due to testifying. If this happens, please call the U.S. Attorney’s Office Victim Witness Staff immediately.

Q. What if I am Threatened or Harassed by the Defendant or Others?

Threatening or intimidating a witness is a separate federal crime. However, it happens much less than you may think. In emergency situations, call the police immediately. In other instances, contact the Assistant U.S. Attorney assigned to the case or the Victim Witness Staff Person. Unlike trials, grand jury proceedings are secret, therefore, no one will know you are testifying in grand jury unless you tell them.

Q. What if I Have Questions, or Need Assistance?

The Victim Witness Staff will be glad to help you in any way possible. Please contact the Victim Witness Unit at 1-800-680-8949. The Victim Witness staff may be present in the courtroom during trials, but they are NOT allowed in the grand jury room.

Tips For Testifying:

Travel Arrangements: Please see the Witness Information page for information regarding travel arrangements and reimbursements. Do not make your own travel arrangements before talking to a member of the Victim Witness staff.


LOCATION: All Milwaukee case sentencings are conducted at the U.S. District Courthouse at 517 E. Wisconsin Ave. All Green Bay case sentencings are conducted at the U.S. District Courthouse at 125 S. Jefferson St.

PARTICIPANTS: The judge, court reporter, courtroom deputy, defendant, defense attorney, prosecutor and the U.S. Probation Officer are all present. Spectators are allowed. Since sentencings are open to the public, there may be members of the press in the courtroom as well. The Assistant U.S. Attorney or Victim-Witness Staff Person will inform you if they expect the media to be present.

TIME: Please keep in mind that due to many last minute motions and other unexpected events, sentencing dates may change at the last minute. Therefore, it is imperative that you contact the Victim-Witness Coordinator at 414-297-1700 for Milwaukee cases and the Victim Witness Assistant at 920-884-1066 for Green Bay cases, the day before sentencing to confirm the date/time if you plan to attend.

ABOUT SENTENCINGS: The judge will outline the charges against the defendant and confirm with the defendant that he/she has entered a plea of guilty to or has been convicted of the charges. The judge will reiterate to the defendant the terms and conditions of the accepted plea agreement (if applicable), and the expected range of sentencing. The judge will then confirm with the defense and the prosecution that they are ready to proceed with sentencing. Each side is given an opportunity to address the court. At this time, the defense attorney may give reasons why the defendant should be sentenced at the low end of the sentencing guidelines. This will usually entail a list of the defendant’s good character points and perhaps, letters that were written on his/her behalf by members of the defendant’s family, neighbors, friends, clergy, etc. The defendant is then given an opportunity to address the court and make any statements on his/her own behalf. The prosecution is given an opportunity to make any recommendations or respond to any statements made by the defense attorney or the defendant. Individuals providing victim impact statements will be given an opportunity to address the court either before or after the prosecutor makes any statements. In addition, throughout the proceeding, the U.S. Probation Officer who prepared the pre-sentence report for the court, may make statements to the court or advise the court on particular points. Sometimes, the judge will ask the U.S. Probation Officer to clarify some point raised by either the defense or the prosecution. Also, throughout the proceeding, there may be motions made by either side that the court will address. Finally, the judge imposes sentence, which includes the actual sentence (imposed in months), a period of supervised release (imposed in years), special conditions of supervised release (for example, making monthly restitution payments), special conditions while incarcerated (for example, attending drug/alcohol counseling), and the amount, if any, of restitution owed. The defendant may be ordered into custody right away, or if already in custody, continued custody. If the defendant has been out of custody on bail, he may be allowed to surrender himself into custody on a specific date set by the judge.

Q. How Long Does the Sentencing Proceeding Take?

Sentencing can range between an hour and three hours, depending on the nature of the case, the length of the defense attorney’s statement; the length of the defendant’s statement, how many, victim impact statements are given; and any motions that are made during the course of the proceedings. In addition, there may be cases scheduled before your case.

Q. What is a Pre-Sentence Report?

A pre-sentence report is prepared by a U.S. Probation Officer to help the Judge determine an appropriate sentence. In general, the report includes the details of the offense for which the defendant was charged, the date and details of the defendant’s plea of guilty or conviction, the sentencing guidelines for the offense, the defendant’s criminal history, and the impact of the crime on the victims, (including victim impact statements).

Q. What are the Sentencing Guidelines?

The sentencing guidelines were enacted by Congress to ensure that federal defendants charged with the same crime would receive the same sentence. The sentencing guidelines operate as a chart. Each offense is assigned a level. Offense levels run on the vertical side of the chart. Each defendant is assigned a criminal history category based on his/her prior record, which comprises the horizontal side of the chart. The chart sets a range of months to be imposed as a sentence for each intersection of offense level and criminal history category. Although judges are not obligated to sentence within these guideline ranges, they generally do so.

Q. Why Does the Defense Attorney Make the Defendant Sound Like a “Good Guy”?

Part of the defense attorney’s job is to make their client look as good as possible in front of the judge. Try not to take anything the defense attorney says personally. When the defendant makes his statement to the judge, this may sound like “lies” to witnesses and victims, but the judge will act as an impartial observer in order to impose a proper sentence.

Q. Why Didn’t the Prosecutor Make Any Statement?

Sometimes, the prosecution may not make any statement because the terms of the plea agreement stipulate that the prosecution will not take any position with regards to sentencing.


This is a victim’s written or verbal statement which is submitted to the Judge to review before sentencing the defendant. It personalizes to the Judge the emotional, physical, and financial impact you and others have suffered as a direct result of this crime. Since some victims are uncomfortable with completing a formal statement for review, the Judge will also consider a personal letter. Written Victim Impact Statements may be seen by the defendant and the defense attorney.

Q. What is the Purpose of the Victim Impact Statement?

It gives you an opportunity to express in your own words what you, your family, and others close to you have experienced as a result of this crime. Many victims also find it helps them provide some closure to the ordeal the crime has caused. The victim impact statement is helpful to the judge when he or she decides what sentence the defendant should receive. Although the Judge will decide the defendant’s sentence based upon the pre-sentence report and the sentencing guidelines, the Judge will consider your opinion before making a decision.

Q. Will I be Able to Make a Statement at Sentencing?

You MAY have the right to make a statement at sentencing. The Victim Witness Staff will advise you whether or not you have this right.

Q. How Do I Make a Victim Impact Statement in Court?

You must first advise the Victim Witness Staff Person that you wish to make a statement in court. The Victim Witness staff person will advise the court that you wish to make a statement. The Victim Witness staff person will make every effort to escort you to the court hearing, and will coordinate this with you in advance. Once the proceedings begin, the Judge will ask if there are any victims who wish to make a statement. You will be called to the podium, asked to state your name, and you then may proceed with your statement. If it makes you more comfortable, you may prepare a written statement and read it out loud. Remember to speak clearly and loudly when giving your statement in court. The Victim Witness staff person will remain in the courtroom with you throughout the proceeding. When possible, the Victim Witness staff person will arrange for the prosecutor to meet with you after the sentencing to answer any questions you may have at the conclusion of sentencing

Q. Will I be Notified of the Sentence if I Do Not Attend?

Yes. You will receive a letter from the U.S. Attorney’s Office advising you of the sentence imposed and the amount of restitution owed to you, if any. If restitution is imposed, you will be given a restitution assignment form to complete and asked to indicate whether you wish to receive the restitution owed to you. You will also be given information regarding the Bureau of Prisons Victim Notification program, which enables victims to receive notification of an inmate’s escape, release, furlough, death, etc.

Updated January 30, 2015

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