Arrest-to-Arraignment Now Fast-Tracked in New York City Courts . . . But at What Cost?

Every retail chain – from CVS Pharmacy to Home Depot, from 7-Eleven to Cosco –uses them. Uses what? Check-out scanners, computers to keep track of products and sales. Instead of making you wait on line, these scanners speed up time between off-the shelf and your purchase.

It used to be, in the New York City court system, you could “wait on line” between your arrest and arraignment for as long as 32 hours – and sometimes as much as 2 days and nights – behind bars before you and your defense counsel made your initial court appearance. No matter that the complaint against you may be for a very minor infraction with little or no required bail.

But now the New York City court system is adopting computer-tracking – not for better retail sales – but supposedly to speed up the time between your arrest and arraignment. It is called CourtStat.

CourtStat is a word spin-off of CompStat. CompStat is a crime-tracking system first introduced in New York in the 1990s. This was during William J. Bratton’s first-time stint as police commissioner. Much like the electronics of air traffic control, CourtStat monitors a case from initial complaint to courtroom appearance – all with the use of bar code stickers.

Much has been lauded about CourtStat: it has dramatically shaved off time (to as little as 21 hours in many cases, and sometimes even less); the whole process has become increasingly efficient; and bottlenecks – such as defendants being sent to wrong courthouses – have been averted.

Considering that New York City processed 225,000 arrests in 2013, this increase in “traffic control” efficiency is, it seems, an absolute necessity. Legal efficiency has made a big leap forward.

Or maybe not. While everyone in the New York City judicial system is patting itself on the back, problems remain. Chief among these is the fact that the New York City court system is not a retail chain and you are not simply a bar-coded, off-the-shelf product. You are a person.

Often defendants are poor or have been profiled. How do you reach for proper criminal defense counsel . . . especially if you are being scanned through the express counter to an arraignment?

The Blanch Law Firm recognizes a defendant still needs expert criminal defense counsel in preparation for an arraignment. This is imperative. An arraignment may be the single most important moment of your case.

The Blanch Law Firm wonders what’s next. One-stop scanning to sentencing?

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