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- Criminal Law FAQ
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Criminal prosecutions usually begin with the arrest of a suspect by a police officer, or by the filing of a formal action in court and the issuance of an arrest warrant or summons.
A person who is arrested is taken to a police precinct and processed. The processing of an arrested individual consists of taking personal data and, where required, the individual is fingerprinted.
The word “booked” has entered common parlance as the thing done to arrested persons. Actually, the “booking” is an entry in an arrest record and a minor part of the processing.
Accusatory instruments including information’s, misdemeanor complaints, simplified traffic information’s and felony complaints are also prepared in the station house by police personnel.
A detective will be assigned to cases where investigations are needed. In addition to the traditional duties of investigation, detectives play a vital role in pure evidence gathering and preparing a case for trial. Detectives interview and interrogate arrested persons and witnesses to procure statements concerning the criminal incident.
After processing, a person is either detained or released on bond (bail) or Appearance ticket for a court appearance that day or the next, depending upon the time processing is completed.
Informations are sworn statements charging offenses of less than felony grade. The Information or supporting depositions annexed to it supply allegations to each element of the crime on personal knowledge, (for example an information charging unauthorized use of an automobile, will have statement sworn to by a policeman indicating the defendant operated a motor vehicle. Attached will be a supporting deposition of the vehicle’s owner indicating that no person had permission to so use the vehicle).
Misdemeanor Complaint is simply an allegation made on hearsay (Example – the information alluded to above would be a misdemeanor complaint if the deposition of the vehicle’s owner was not attached). A person may only be held five days on such a misdemeanor complaint, and unless he waives, he cannot be forced to trial on such an instrument.
After an indictment has been voted and handed up, a defendant must be arraigned even if he was arraigned on the same charge in lower Court. The arraignment is for the same purposes as a lower Court arraignment, that is to read the charges in the indictment and set bail. At arraignment, the case is assigned to a County Court Judge and a conference date is set.
Conferences in County Court are plea bargaining sessions conducted usually in the initial phase by the Judge the Assistant District Attorney and defense counsel.
If no disposition is possible, the case is set for trial. Pre-trial hearings are then scheduled and held. The order of the trial is the same as in lower Court. In felony trials, there are 12 member juries, the preemptory challenges are by degree of crime (A-felony 20, B & C felonies 15, all else 10).
Appellate rights are similar to those explained above except that appeals in felony cases go to the Appellate Division, 3rd Department, rather than the Appellate Term.
If you have any further questions relating to Felonies or Misdemeanors please contact our office.
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