Arrested in NYC?

Quick guide to how criminal court cases are initiated in New York City

When someone gets arrested in New York City one of the following two things usually occurs:

1.  The person is arrested, taken to a precinct and issued a Desk Appearance Ticket.  When the officer does not issue a summons, the next level is the Desk Appearance Ticket (“D.A.T.).  This is less favorable than a summons since it takes longer to process than a summons and often includes an arrest and a trip to one of the New York City precincts.  But it is definitely better than a trip to Central Booking because –after some processing, perhaps including fingerprinting and other paperwork at the Precinct– the person receiving the D.A.T. is released and given a paper with a date to appear in Court.  Unfortunately, Desk Appearance Tickets are not allowed for A, B, C, or D felonies or any violations of section 130.25, 130.40, 205.10, 205.17, 205.19 or 215.56 of the Penal Law. 

2. The person is arrested and taken to Central Booking.  This is a much more onerous arrest procedure often involving a trip to the precinct as in the D.A.T, but instead of NYPD issuing a D.A.T. and releasing the person, the person is brought to Central Booking where they are held for anywhere from 12 to 48 hours to wait to appear before a criminal court judge for an ”arraignment”  This is the procedure for all persons arrested for a felony, and it can also be used with misdemeanors and even violations such as disorderly conduct.  
At Central Booking, an arrestee is locked up in one of the “pens” behind the courtroom with all of the other arrestees and waits to see the judge.  The wait is usually about 24 hours, since during that time, a file including a CJA Sheet, a criminal complaint and a rap sheet have to be generated and then copies have to be made and distributed to the Court and then to Defense Counsel.  If the arrestee does not have private counsel, the documents will be given to the institutional provider accepting assignments during that arraignment shift.  The institutional provider will then determine whether to keep the case or to give the case over to the conflict provider who is assigned to that arraignment shift.  Once that Decision is made, the file is reviewed, then the lawyer will go back into the pens and interview the arrestee. 

The main focus of the interview at this time will be to develop a good argument for the arrestee’s release when the case is called before the judge.   Judges have a lot of discretion when it comes to deciding whether to release an arrestee without bail or, when setting bail, how much bail.  Generally speaking, Judges will make their bail determinations based on:

 1) seriousness of charge

2)prior record

3) prior failures to appear and

4) arrestee’s community ties. 

Getting released without bail or getting a low enough bail to post will likely have a favorable impact on the eventual outcome of the case.    There’s an old saying in criminal law that people who are out tend to stay out.    So, it is crucial that the pre-arraignment discussion between the lawyer and the arrestee focus on developing a good argument for release or at least low bail.   

If Arrestee has a rap sheet, it is very important that he and lawyer carefully review the rap sheet together and discuss any prior bench warrants.  Many times there are reasons for bench warrants other than willing failures to appear.  Prosecutors like to mention an arrestees prior bench warrants when asking the judge to set a high bail, so it is important for the defense lawyer to be prepared with an explanation for the warrant, if possible. 

Even with serious charges such as Felony drug charges, mitigating or exculpatory facts with regards to the charge at issue can be brought up to persuade the court to set a low bail or an ROR.    For example, someone charged with felony possession of cocaine might have just been innocently visiting the home of a friend when the police appeared, executed a search warrant on the home, found drugs hidden in a closet and arrested everyone on the premises.  At arraignment, the arrestee would want the lawyer to indicate that the client was not the target of the warrant, was just visiting, and had no knowledge of any drug activity within the home.

Ties to the community are also important and should be verified before the arraignment.  Arrestee should provide his lawyer with phone numbers of persons who can verify the arrestees’s family, community and employment ties to the area.  It is is also very important for family members to be present during the arraignment.