New York Arraignment Attorney
Following an arrest, arraignment is the first step in the criminal process. In some instances, when the crime is considered low level and the person arrested has valid identification, a Desk Appearance Ticket (DAT) may be issued, which means that arraignment is scheduled for a later date.
When a DAT is not issued, the person who has been arrested will be held until arraignment. This detention may last for up to 24 hours prior to arraignment, though the process will be faster if a private defense attorney is involved. Most New York City arraignment courts are open from 9:00 a.m. until after midnight.
As a former Manhattan Assistant District Attorney (ADA), I have arraigned thousands of defendants, so I have an in-depth understanding of the process. Here’s what you can expect at arraignment.
The Arraignment Process in New York
1) Legal Representation: If the defendant cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed. If the defendant has hired a private criminal defense attorney, that lawyer will appear with the defendant. Many criminal defendants who are held pending arraignment don’t think to retain an attorney before going before the court, or don’t know how to arrange for representation quickly. This is easier to manage if the defendant has been issued a DAT and released with a future court date.
However, it is very much to the defendant’s advantage to have representation of his or her choosing from the very beginning. In fact, retaining a private defense attorney for arraignment will speed the process.
2) Reading of the Charges: The standard procedure calls for the charges to be read aloud to the defendant. In nearly all cases, the criminal defense attorney will waive a formal reading of the charges and receive a copy of the accusatory instrument, otherwise known as a criminal complaint.
This criminal complaint lists the charges and the criminal laws alleged to have been violated and sets forth the facts necessary to support the charges. Typically, this instrument is signed by a police officer under penalty of perjury.
3) Notices: After the reading of the charges or the waiver of the reading, the ADA will serve “notices.” One type of notice that is served at arraignment relates to alleged statements made by the defendant to law enforcement. The other includes any identification of the defendant by non-law-enforcement witnesses who may or may not be known to the defendant.
These notices provide important information for the defense attorney, and failure to serve them in a timely manner may have a significant impact on the case. In a misdemeanor case, if notices are not served within 15 days of arraignment, the statement or identification cannot be used at trial without a showing of good cause for the delay. (Alternately, in a felony case, notices are required to be served within 15 days of arraignment following felony indictment or waiver of indictment.)
When the defendant’s interrogation has been video recorded, the prosecution will typically turn over a DVD later in the case. But, at the arraignment, the ADA will read a summary of the statement made by the defendant, known as sum and substance.
4) Proposed Resolution: Sometimes a criminal case can be resolved at arraignment. After providing notices, the ADA will set forth a proposed resolution. This proposed disposition may be anything from an Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal (ACD) to a recommended sentence on a plea to the top charged offense.
The possibility of resolution at arraignment is one of the key reasons that it is helpful to have representation at the arraignment stage. The possibility of resolving the case immediately is obviously appealing, but you won’t want to enter into an agreement without fully understanding the terms and what impact a plea bargain or a plea to the charge may have in the future.
5) Bail: If the case isn’t resolved at the arraignment, it is possible that the ADA will request bail. Bail is money deposited with the court to ensure that the defendant appears for future court dates. Sometimes, the judge will determine that bail is not necessary and release the defendant on his or her own recognizance. This is commonly known as ROR, and simply means that the judge is entrusting the defendant to appear in court without bail.
The amount of bail can vary considerably, depending upon the charge, the defendant’s family and ties to the community, employment status, financial resources, the strength of the evidence, and criminal history including arrests, convictions and bench warrants.
I have seen misdemeanor bail set as low as $250 and as high as $20,000. In a felony case, bail may be set even higher, whether tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, or denied altogether.
6) Future Proceedings: If the charge is a misdemeanor and the case is not resolved at arraignment, another court date will be scheduled. Typically, the date will be 6 weeks to 3 months in the future. Depending on the case, this next appearance may serve one or more of several purposes, including the filing of depositions, discovery or motions. The actual trial date is likely to be at least 6 months after arraignment, though most criminal cases do not reach trial.
In the case of a felony, the ADA will, at the arraignment, provide notice to the defendant of the prosecution’s intent to present to the case to the Grand Jury. Once this notice is provided, a defendant has the right to testify before the Grand Jury. Whether or not a defendant testifies is a strategic decision that should be discussed in depth with an experienced defense attorney.
7) Felony Arraignment: If the Grand Jury votes an indictment, also known as returning a “true bill,” the case will be transferred to the Supreme Court, where another arraignment will take place. At the Supreme Court indictment, the defendant will enter a plea. At this arraignment, the court may set or increase bail and serve statement and/or identification notices.