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Arraignment Process

With rare exception, most people who are arrested and prosecuted in New York City will eventually appear before a Criminal Court judge for arraignment, or first appearance. The person accused of disorderly conduct and the person accused of homicide will both be brought before the same Criminal Court judge for arraignment and may well share a holding cell behind the courtroom in New York City. The time from arrest to arraignment in Criminal Court is generally about 24 hours. A New York criminal defense lawyer can help speed up this process or determine if you are eligible for a desk appearance ticket (DAT) so you would not have to spend a night in jail. It is very important to contact a New York criminal defense lawyer – attorney after the accused is arrested and before arraignment.

The actual arraignment itself frequently is brief, often finished in less than five minutes. In New York City the arraignment begins by long tradition with the New York criminal defense lawyer / attorney or DWI / DUI lawyer “waiving the reading” of the charges. In theory, every person arrested is entitled to be formally read the accusations. Instead, tradition in New York City is that a copy of the charges is provided to the criminal defense lawyer at the arraignment and the criminal defense lawyer is expected to waive the formal public reading. Tradition in New York City also dispenses with a formal plea of not guilty. The law presumes a not guilty plea. Next, the prosecutor provides the criminal defense lawyer / attorney or DWI / DUI lawyer with certain “notices” that are required by law that vary depending on the type of case and actual facts presented. Generally, these notices relate to notifying the defense about certain types of evidence that the Government has in its possession. For example, one type of notice frequently presented at arraignment notifies the defense that the Government has a statement from the defendant. The notices are rattled off in quick succession and identified by Criminal Procedure Law references. Once all the notices are handed to defense, the judge usually asks to hear the Government’s position on bail.

Given the volume of arrests in New York City, Criminal Court arraignments are held day and night, seven days a week, 365 days a year. The day arraignment shift lasts from 9:30 AM to 5:00 PM, and the night arraignment shift lasts from 5:00 PM to 1:00 AM. Different counties in New York such as Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx, Rockland, Westchester, Richmond, Nassau, and Suffolk Counties, may differ.

Bail Hearing

At the arraignment, the primary issue is whether or not the judge is going to set bail. If the judge does not set bail, the accused is released on his own recognizance (ROR), which essentially means that the accused is on his honor to return to court when required. If the judge decides that the accused can not be trusted to return to court without some encouragement, the judge may set bail. Bail is an amount of money that the accused is required to post with the City of New York in order to be released. If the accused returns to court every time he is required to return to court, the bail money is returned, less a small administrative fee. If the accused fails to return to court when required, the money is forfeit to New York City. It is very important to have a New York criminal defense lawyer / attorney or DWI / DUI lawyer for arraignment for a better chance that the judge will release the arrested individual on ROR or for a more reasonable bail being set.

The decisions to set bail and the amount of bail to set are highly discretionary, but generally relate to three broad factors: 1) prior criminal history, 2) seriousness of the offense charged, and 3) community ties of the accused. The “cleaner” the criminal record of the accused, the less serious the offense, and the greater the ties of the accused to the community the more likely the accused is to be released without bail (ROR). However, the more extensive the criminal history, the more serious the offense, and the fewer ties to the community, the greater the likelihood that a judge will set bail. Many New York criminal lawyers / attorneys would tell you that the actual judge presiding at the arraignment, and the county, whether it be Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx, Rockland, Westchester, Richmond, Nassau, and Suffolk, is also a factor in how bail is set. Usually, the prosecutor will request bail and briefly outline the basis for the request. After the prosecutor, the criminal defense lawyer / attorney or DWI / DUI attorney is then afforded an opportunity to speak and will usually seek the defendant’s release from custody. Finally, after hearing from both sides, the judge decides whether to set bail and if so, how much.

Process For Misdemeanor Cases After Arraignment

New York City Criminal Court is also responsible for handling felony accusations beyond the arraignment. In New York, the Government is required to do more than simply prepare a written accusation when the charge includes a felony. In New York, the Government is required to seek and obtain an indictment in order to prosecute a felony case to its conclusion at a trial. An indictment is not a determination of guilt. Rather, an indictment is essentially a written permission slip for the Government, issued by the Grand Jury, to prosecute a person for a felony (or sometimes a misdemeanor). The Grand Jury is a group of citizens chosen at random similar to the manner in which jurors are chosen for criminal trials. The Government is required to get an indictment against every single person it is charging with a felony if the case is not resolved by agreement. While the burden on the Government is extremely low to obtain the Grand Jury indictment, the Grand Jury process is time consuming. It has fallen to New York City Criminal Court, then, to be responsible for “babysitting” unindicted felony cases. Unindicted felony cases are adjourned from arraignments to various Criminal Court courtrooms for monitoring their progress toward indictment. In fact, these courtrooms are quite busy and important because many cases are negotiated and ultimately resolved without needing to be indicted. The accused has the option of testifying in the Grand Jury in cases where the accused is arrested before indictment. It is very important to consult with an experienced criminal defense lawyer / attorney or drunk driving lawyer before considering testifying in the grand jury.

Once a case is indicted, however, it is transferred to New York State Supreme Court where it will be prepared for and, if necessary, ultimately tried.

The above is a general description of the criminal process for criminal cases in New York but depending on whether you are arrested in Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx, Rockland, Westchester, Richmond, Nassau, and Suffolk differences will always exist.

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