The criminal justice system in the United States is complex, and each state has its own set of laws and procedures for handling criminal cases. In New York, the criminal procedure process involves a series of steps that must be followed to ensure that justice is served. From the initial arrest to the final disposition of a case, there are numerous legal requirements and safeguards in place to protect the rights of the accused and ensure fair treatment under the law. Understanding the criminal procedure process in New York is essential for anyone who may find themselves involved in a criminal case, whether as a defendant, victim, witness, or legal professional.
In this article, Eastcoastlaws.com will provide an overview of the criminal procedure process in New York, including the key stages and legal principles involved in criminal cases.
Criminal Procedure Process In New York
Typically, arrests take place immediately after or close to the alleged crime scene. Sometimes arrests happen later, after a detective’s contact or visit. The arrested person should never interact with any police officers or detectives in either scenario. Making any statement to, or in front of, a police officer or detective can only be hazardous, even if you are completely innocent. People may claim that cooperating will make things easier with the judge or the district attorney or that things “just need to be cleared up,” but doing so can be very risky. Anyone who is being detained should demand legal representation right away, decline to answer any questions, and refuse to sign anything.
The defendant will undergo fingerprinting, photography, and a warrant check following an arrest. What charges to bring up may be decided by the district attorney or the officer. An official from Pre-Trial Services will speak with the defendant while they are detained and inquire about their address, the name, and location of their employer, whether they are on parole or probation, and the name and contact information of someone who can verify this information. At the defendant’s arraignment, Pre-Trial Services then recommends to the court whether or not to release the defendant on bail.
When a defendant appears before the court for the first time, it is called an arraignment. He or she is informed of the accusations leveled against them and requested to enter a “guilty” or “not guilty” plea. Usually, defendants are arraigned 24 hours after their arrest. At the arraignment, the judge’s most crucial choice will be whether to set bail or release the defendant without it. The defendant’s criminal history, the gravity of the charges, the defendant’s links to the community, and any past bench warrant history (a defendant’s failure to appear in court in a prior case) will all be taken into account by the judge when making this determination.
The defendant should ideally have legal representation during arraignment or as soon as possible subsequently. When in attendance at the arraignment, a skilled defense lawyer will make an argument to lower or even eliminate bail.
The court will typically issue an order of protection restricting or forbidding contact between the defendant and the alleged victim in situations where harassment or physical assault is claimed. It is crucial that defendants follow the protection order since failing to do so could result in further charges, including felony criminal contempt.
In New York, the judge, not the police or the district attorney, sets bail. The subject of bail is debated at the bail hearing, which is typically held concurrently with the arraignment; it is controlled by Criminal Procedure Law Section 510.30. The judge must consider a number of aspects of the defendant and the case. These elements are:
- the defendant’s character, reputation, habits, and mental condition;
- employment and financial resources;
- family ties and length of residency, if any, in the community;
- criminal record, if any;
- any record of juvenile adjudications;
- previous ability to show up to court in prior cases;
- whether it is a domestic violence case (special rules apply);
- the strength of the case (or appeal); and
- the amount of jail time the person is facing if convicted.
Both the prosecutor and the defense attorney frequently present arguments regarding these nine issues at the bail hearing. The judge decides the amount of bail needed to make sure the prisoner appears in court after hearing the arguments. The defendant is then detained until bail is paid. The defendant is released once bail has been posted. The bail is released (given back) when the case is concluded. However, the bail is forfeited (taken by the court and never given back) if the defendant doesn’t show up for court.
A judge will probably decide that no amount of bail can guarantee the defendant’s presence in court in situations that are extremely serious and carry a potential life sentence (such as those involving murder charges). The defendant in this case has been “remanded.” In other words, the judge has mandated that the defendant remain in detention until the conclusion of the case.
If you or a loved one has an upcoming arraignment, it is imperative that you are represented by a skilled criminal defense lawyer. It might mean the difference between being locked up while the legal process is ongoing and being released with more freedom to contribute to your defense.
Defendants and their attorneys are entitled to specific information and evidence relevant to their case under NY State Law. The term “discovery” refers to a variety of police and district attorney paperwork, including any statements made by the defendant, photographs, drawings, an examination of any property taken from the defendant, tapes that the prosecutor plans to introduce at trial, evidence connecting a third party to the crime (Brady material), witness statements, and police complaint forms. Prior to motions, all of these must be given to the defense attorney.
Pre-Trial Motion & Hearing
The defense attorney must submit motions about any pre-trial problems, such as dismissal, suppression of statements or physical evidence, or any other issues that the court should address before trial, within 45 days of the arraignment. When the defendant was being questioned while in detention without having been told his or her Miranda rights or when the defendant asked for an attorney before speaking, the statements may be suppressed.
If the identification process was very suggestive, an identification may be concealed; identifications may involve a line-up, show-up, or photo array. If the search and seizure of the objects were improper, physical evidence (weapons, narcotics, money, blood, etc.) may be suppressed. Additionally, a motion can ask for the trial to not bring up any previous convictions or bad behavior.
Jury selection (6 jurors for a misdemeanor, 12 jurors for a felony), opening statements, the presentation of evidence by the prosecution and defense attorneys, closing arguments, the jury charge, the jury’s deliberations, and the judgment make up the trial process.
A trial is a difficult and exact task. You MUST have a criminal trial attorney with trial expertise if you choose to go to trial. Any inexperienced errors you make in court will probably cost you your freedom, so you cannot afford any. You must have a trial lawyer who can question the prosecution on their understanding of the law governing evidence and criminal procedure in New York and ultimately force them to establish your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Given that it establishes the actual punishment the defendant will receive, sentencing may be one of the most crucial phases of the criminal process. In some circumstances, the punishment will be predetermined as part of a plea agreement; otherwise, the judge will decide the exact penalty. Pre-sentence investigation (PSI) is required by New York State Law in both scenarios. A PSI is a report on the defendant that includes information on their history, the circumstances of the crime, and suggested sentencing.
An adept defense lawyer would attempt to present the offender favorably at sentencing in order to convince the court to give a lower sentence. A smart lawyer should correct any errors in the PSI and may even conduct their own research to uncover any extra information and circumstances that might support the defendant.
The length of incarceration and the choice of jail, probation, community service, or in some situations, county jail instead of state prison, can be affected by the presence of a competent criminal defense attorney at sentencing.
If a defendant is found guilty at trial, the criminal appeals process in New York starts after the verdict. In most circumstances, the Appellate Division, 4th Department, is the higher court to which one may appeal after being found guilty. Those who are unsuccessful on this first appeal may ask the New York Court of Appeals, New York State’s highest appeals court, to take a look at their case. However, it is not necessary for the Court of Appeals to hear the case. The appeals procedure calls for particular knowledge and abilities.