What are New York Arraignments

New York City arraignments are the defendant’s first hearing in front of a judge after he or she has been arrested and processed (also known as “being booked”). In New York City, absent the issuance of a Desk Appearance Ticket (DAT), the defendant is normally held in custody for a period of 24 hours before he/she is arraigned. Arraignments in the five boroughs typically take place seven days a week from 9:00 am until 1:00 am, holidays included. It is very important to be represented by a qualified criminal defense lawyer at the arraignment because many crucial aspects of the criminal prosecution process occur at this appearance. Read on to learn more about New York arraignments.

The main purpose of the arraignment are listed below, however, many other important matters may be addressed depending on whether the charges against the defendant are felonies, misdemeanors, violations or whether the case will be in federal or state courts. The basic arraignment elements are:

1. The defendant is read the charges that have been filed against him/her
2. The defendant is advised of his/her right to an attorney
3. The defendant is given the chance to plead guilty or not guilty
4. The judge will determine whether to release the defendant on recognizance or impose some conditions of bail

 The Sequence Of Events At A New York Arraignment

Although arraignments vary depending on the circumstances of the case, they generally follow a typical sequence. The defendant will be called to stand in front of a judge alongside the assistant district attorney. The defendant will than be notified of his/her rights, like the right to a trial and the right to have an attorney appointed to represent the defendant if he/she can’t afford a private attorney.

The defendant has the right to hire his or her own private attorney. The defendant can also represent himself/herself, however, criminal proceedings are complicated. It is always a good idea to be represented by an experienced criminal lawyer in order to have the defendant’s rights protected.

The lawyer representing the defendant and the assistant district attorney may then discuss a plea bargain to settle the case. After consulting with his/her attorney, the defendant will then enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. If the defendant pleads guilty the court will then determine the sentence. If the defendant pleads not guilty then the defendant will receive a court date for a hearing and trial.

Bail or ROR’ed

In the event that the defendant pleads not guilty, it’s up to the judge’s discretion whether he/she will release the defendant on recognizance or impose some conditions of bail. When bail is set the judge is allowing the defendant to be released as long as money or property is put up as a guarantee to assure the defendant’s appearance to court for future court dates. The judge will decide what the bail amount will be and the defendant will be held in custody until the bail is posted.

The judge also has the option to release the defendant without bail on a promise to return for future court appearances. This is called Release On Your Own Recognizances (ROR). Whether a defendant is released on bail or is ROR’ed can depend on several factors: if a criminal charge is a misdemeanor or felony, if the defendant has family and employment ties to the community, or if the defendant has a criminal history or warrant history or not, to name a few. For instance, a defendant has a much better chance of receiving an ROR if the charge is a misdemeanor, the defendant lives and has significant family ties to the community and has no criminal history or warrant history.

In the event that the defendant is charged with a misdemeanor and is unable to make bail, the defendant will be held in custody for about five days. Within that time, if the prosecution is not able to process the supporting paperwork for the misdemeanor complaint, the judge must ROR the defendant on what is called a “170.70 day.”

Whether the defendant is released on bail or ROR, the defendant must return to court for all scheduled court appearances. If the defendant does not return for an appearance, the judge will issue a bench warrant for the defendant’s arrest. Failure to appear at a scheduled court appearance could expose the defendant to additional charges such as bail jumping. In that event, even if the defendant is found innocent on the original charge, he or she could then have a criminal record for not returning to court.

Arraignments Are Not Trials

It is also important to note that the arraignment is not a trial and the guilt or innocence of the defendant is not decided and no evidence is presented. No witnesses are called and the arresting officer is not present nor is the complaining witness present. Generally the defendant does not speak; his/her attorney will speak on his/her behalf. With all this said, an arraignment is a very important stage of the prosecution of a criminal case. A defendant should have competent legal representation in order protect the defendant’s rights.

How We Can Help

Hiring a private attorney to handle the arraignment process has several advantages for the defendant and their family. First and foremost, the time from arrest to arraignment can be significantly decreased by the assistance of private counsel. The bureaucratic process of arresting someone and bringing them to appear before a judge has the following phases:

Sequence Of Events When Someone Is Arrested

1. Law Enforcement detains a person and accuses them of a crime. The person is typically brought to a precinct and personal information is taken from the person about where they live and who they are. The arresting agency then must communicate with the prosecuting agency (typically the District Attorney’s Office) and inform them of the arrest and the charges that have been alleged against the detainee.

2. After the initial arrest period, law enforcement has the option of interviewing the detainee (interrogation) or including the person in a lineup or holding the person at the precinct while further investigative techniques are conducted.

3. After law enforcement is done with the person at the precinct, they are brought to the local “central booking” to await the next steps in the process.

4. While the detainee is brought to central booking, the arresting officer communicates with the prosecutor and discusses what charges have been alleged against the detainee. Through this process, the prosecutor typically drafts a “complaint” that formally accuses the detainee of certain crimes.

5. After the prosecutor has finished drafting the formal charges against the detainee (now called a defendant) the charges are delivered to the criminal court clerk’s office so that the complaint can be “docketed”. This means that the complaint has been formally filed with the court and a unique identifying number has been assigned to the case.

6. Once the case has been assigned a docket number, the defendant is ready to be brought before the judge and the arraignment is ready to begin.

Throughout the process, a private attorney will have many opportunities to assist a detainee and their families navigate this bureaucracy in order to help speed up the process as well as to gain an advantage during the actual arraignment in order to make an argument concerning bail that has the most chance of success. A private attorney can communicate with a detainee throughout the process so that the family knows where that person is and when they can be expected to see a judge. For instance, a private attorney can contact the local precinct during the initial hours of detention and invoke the detainee’s rights to not be interviewed or to try and stay out of a lineup.

A private attorney can communicate with the prosecutor’s office to understand what charges are alleged against the detainee and perhaps influence what charges are actually brought in the complaint against the defendant. Communication with the prosecutor’s office also helps speed up the process because a private attorney can ask that the charges against their client be drafted out-of-order so that the process is sped up. When the charges are drafted, a private attorney can communicate with the court clerk’s office in order to ask that the case be assigned a docket number out-of-order so that the process is sped up. Finally, a private attorney can speak with the defendant prior to the arraignment and help understand their version of the complaint so that the most effective bail argument can be presented to the court.

At the Kushner Law Group, we have over a decade of experience handling arraignments in all of the courts in and around New York City. If a loved one has been detained by law enforcement, don’t delay, contact us immediately to help you and them handle this process in the most successful way possible. We are available 24 hours a day to assist you.  Call us at (718) 504-1440 for a free consultation.