Some of the biggest worries potential clients have for criminal defense lawyers is what happens next. The criminal justice system can be confusing for those unfamiliar with its landscape. Many individuals base their knowledge on what they see on T.V. or in films. This article will provide a general overview of what to expect once you have been arrested or charged with a crime in New York.
After Getting Arrested
If you are taken into police custody, then you should expect to have the rights read to you. This is probably the part you are familiar with on t.v. (you have the right to remain silent, etc.) You must affirmatively invoke your right to remain silent, as well as request your right to an attorney. Simply stating ‘I do not wish to answer any of your questions, I am asserting my 5th Amendment right to remain silent, and I request an attorney’ will be sufficient for these purposes.
After you’ve been arrested, you’re entitled to have a preliminary hearing shortly after – usually within 24 hours. This hearing is called an arraignment, and it takes place in the Criminal Court. It is where you decide which plea you will enter, and whether or not the prosecution will decide to formally charge you or dismiss the case. If you plead guilty, the judge will issue a sentence. If you plead not guilty, then you might be entitled to bail. It’s possible you could also be released on your own recognizance to return to court for your trial hearing.
If you do plead guilty, then the case will proceed through the courts. Depending on the severity of the crime, your case could be sent to one of several courts. This arraignment will help the judge determine which procedural pathway your case should go down.
Misdemeanors and Minor Violations
After the arraignment, these cases will be moved to the All-Purpose Part Criminal Court. At any point, you might decide to plead guilty and accept a sentence. The prosecution might also decide to dismiss the case, based on whatever evidence they have seen. You could also reach a plea bargain. If the case does proceed to a trial, the prosecution will have to prove you committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt, and six jurors must unanimously determine whether you are guilty or not guilty.
If you are not guilty, then you are acquitted and released. If the jury determines you are guilty of committing the crime, the next step is the sentencing process. The sentence will be dependent upon the severity of the crime, your criminal background, and any other mitigating factors your defense attorney might present to the court.
Felonies are often far more complex in procedural matters than lesser crimes. After the initial arraignment, if you plead not guilty, your case will be sent to the Grand Jury to determine the weight and credibility of the evidence. They can decide either to dismiss your case or pass down an indictment. An indictment is essentially a formal charge of your crime, listing out the elements of each crime you are accused of.
If an indictment is passed down, then you will have a second arraignment in the Supreme Court. Again, you will have the opportunity to enter a plea. Entering a not guilty plea will extend the process. A good defense attorney will file several motions, including discovery, motions to dismiss, and perhaps even motions to suppress evidence. This process can take many months – sometimes even years. Yet, just like in the lower courts, you could change your plea at any time, or reach a plea agreement.
If your case ultimately proceeds to trial, then the prosecution must convince 12 members of a jury that you have committed the crimes you are accused of. Again, if you are found not guilty, then you are acquitted and allowed to leave. Otherwise, a guilty verdict means you are convicted and must await sentencing.
This is only a basic overview of what to expect after getting arrested in New York. If you face criminal charges, you should always seek out the advice of a competent, experienced defense attorney as soon as possible to protect your rights and liberty.