New York Arraignments
How Does the NYC Arraignments Process Work?
What is an arraignment?
An arraignment is the first appearance of the defendant in court where he is informed of charges filed against him, advised of the right to counsel, and provided with a copy of the accusatory document. The law requires that arraignments must be conducted without unreasonable delay following the defendant’s arrest, which means within 24 hours. In New York City, it is not unusual for the defendant to spend more than 24 hours in jail prior to getting to see the judge.
Most cases never reach trial and arraignment may be the most important part of the criminal proceeding against him, although it only will last several minutes. The outcome of an arraignment will be releasing the defendant, setting bail, or keeping the defendant in jail until further appearances. The arraignment judge has the sole authority to decide the matter of bail.
NEW YORK ARRAIGNMENT IN SUPERIOR COURT
There are only two ways to prosecute an offense in a superior court: by an indictment filed with the court by a grand jury – and a superior court information filed with the court by a district attorney.
The defendant must be arraigned right after the disctric attorney files an indictment with a superior court.
At an arraignment, the court will inform the defendant of the charges against him. The defendant has the right to be represented by counsel at the arraignment and at every subsequent stage of the action.
If the defendant does not have an attorney at arraignment he has the right to adjourn the hearing in an affort to obtain counsel, the right to communicate by telephone to obtain counsel, inform a relative or friend that he has been charged with a crime, and the right to have an attorney assigned by the court if the defendant is financially unable to hire an attorney.
If the defendant wants to proceed without a lawyer, the court will allow the defendant to do so, provided it is convinced that the defendant understands the significance of this decision. If the court is not convinced, it may not proceed until the accused is furnished with an attorney, either of the accused’s own choosing or by assignment.
A defendant who proceeds “pro se” at arraignment does not waive his or her right to counsel, and the court must advise the defendant that he or she may exercise that right at any stage of the action.
WHY IT IS IMPORTANT TO HIRE A PRIVATE ATTORNEY FOR AN ARRAIGNMENT
Appearing with your own attorney at an arraignment will achieve several benefits.
First, it is not unlikely in New York City that police officers misinform defendants as to the precise nature of the charges against them. These defendants are then surprised at the arraignment to find out that they are accused of much more serious crimes.
Depending on particular charges, defendants may make certain procedural decisions, which would affect the entire case and if made incorrectly, may prove disastrous in future.
For example, in some cases a refusal to sign certain waivers will automatically deny the defendant the ability to plea bargain and could result in a much harsher sentence. An experienced criminal defense attorney has better chances to find out about the charges and advise the defendant as to the best course of action.
Second, any criminal defense lawyer knows that answering questions during an interrogation may be an extremely damaging process. The less questions are answered without the presence of an attorney, the better it is for the defendant.
The key is to retain an attorney early enough to stop the police from questioning the defendant if possible. This could provide the best protection to a client because officers may obtain potentially harmful information and evidence from the arrested individuals before the arraignment.
Third, presence of a privately retained counsel raises the “status” of the defendant before the court. This may indicate that the defendant is a responsible individual who cares about his case and himself enough to obtain a lawyer.
It also shows that the defendant may have family or community roots (if the attorney is retained by the family or friends who are also present in the courtroom). In general, retaining a counsel will provide a sense of security to worried relatives who are absolutely lost dealing with the criminal process and often cannot obtain even basic information about their loved one’s case. A lawyer will personally screen the case and explain the process to the relatives as information is coming in.
Defendants who are not represented by private attorneys are provided with an appointed lawyer, usually working for one of the legal aid groups. These attorneys are knowledgeable and capable but they are usually extremely busy as each is handling dozens of cases daily, sometimes in different courtrooms.
Because of their busy schedules, they are not able to give a particular case as much attention as a private attorney would. In practically all cases, court-staffing attorneys receive defendant’s files literally immediately before the arraignment itself.
However, if the defendant has not yet been processed by the court system, the case is not assigned to an attorney and relatives will not receive any information about their loved one until the case makes its way through the system, which can take many, many hours.
SETTING BAIL IN NEW YORK ARRAIGNMENT
When judges decide whether to set bail in a particular case, they consider many different factors, including the seriousness of the charge, prior criminal history, prior warrants, ties to the community, etc.
“Ties to the community” is a broad term. Any connection or factor that may reduce the flight risk or would indicate that the defendant is not a public threat is helpful in either avoiding bail completely or having a reduced bail set. Among the factors to determine whether a person has sufficient ties to the community are the following considerations:
- Family in the community (having family and friends in the courtroom is a very good benefit)
- Home ownership
- Employment history and status
THE AMOUNT OF BAIL
It is impossible to predict with any certainty the amount of bail in a given case. There are, however, many factors, which should be considered and some very general estimates could be produced. First, the amount of bail depends on the seriousness of crime and the defendant?s prior criminal history. Second, it depends on a particular judge.
UNDERSTANDING BAIL TERMS
Principal – the defendant in a criminal proceeding.
Fixing bail – designation by a court a sum of money stating that if that amount is posted approved, court will release him during the pendency of the criminal action.
The securing order – a court document that provides the terms on which a principal will be dealt with in connection with his freedom pending the outcome of a criminal action.
WHERE ARE ARRAIGNMENTS HELD
Central Booking (718) 590-2817
Bronx County Criminal Court (718) 590-2886 215 East 161st Street, near Sherman and Sheridan Avenues.
Central Booking (718) 935-9210
Kings County (Brooklyn) Criminal Court (718) 643-5675 120 Schermerhorn Street (between Adams and Smith Street).
Central Booking (212) 374-5818
New York County (Manhattan) Criminal Court (212) 374-5880 100 Centre Street (one block north of Worth Street, three blocks south of Canal Street).
Central Booking (718) 268-4523
Queens County Criminal Court (718) 520-1985 125-01 Queens Blvd (near Hoover Avenue and 82nd Avenue).
Central Booking (718) 876-8493
Richmond County (Staten Island) Criminal Court (718) 390-8400 Note: On weekends, call the Brooklyn Arraignment Office (718) 643-5675 67 Targee Street (between Frean and Purroy Streets). Nassau County Nassau Police Headquarters-516-573-7000 Nassau County District Court-516-571-2200 99 Main Street Hempstead NY across from the Hempstead bus station 2 blocks north of Fulton Ave (Hempstead Turnpike) between Jackson Ave and Nichols Court.