A Guide for Bronx Criminal Lawyers: The Road from Arrest to Charge in Bronx County, New York
There is a common belief among attorneys, as well as the general public, that all criminal matters that are initiated with an arrest somewhere in the United States follow an accurate, consistent, and direct trail that leads to formal court proceedings. This, unfortunately, is far from the truth. There are many factors that have a major impact on the post-arrest process. These factors include, but are not limited to, where the person was arrested, the availability of a nearby operational judicial center, access to legal advice, the availability of prosecutors, court clerks, stenographers, computer systems, and many other essential items. to any legal process. People arrested in remote areas at night can expect to spend several hours in a police station with little or no access to lawyers. Most are surprised to learn that many judges called to carry out arraignments, often in the back of a police station, are not attorneys at all. Many charge comparisons are conducted without legal advice, prosecutors, court clerks, or even stenographers. Fortunately, a person arrested in the County of the Bronx, in New York City, will, with few exceptions, follow a highly organized path that will lead directly to their arraignment. Courts, lawyers, prosecutors, stenographers and all those people or systems necessary to advance the matter in a timely and orderly manner have been established. However orderly it may be, the process can appear Kafkaesque to the general public, and even to the untrained lawyer. The following is a roadmap outlining the precise journey that virtually all cases take from the time of arrest to the official arraignment process.
All criminal matters in the Bronx, New York, begin with the reporting of a crime, either by civil witnesses or by police officers. A civilian reporting a crime can be an actual eyewitness, a victim of a criminal offense, or a representative of the victim, such as a parent. In addition, certain classified professionals, such as social workers, doctors, lawyers, or legal guardians, are required by law to report certain crimes that come to their knowledge. The police can initiate a criminal complaint against a person in the absence of victims or witnesses. Typically, this occurs when the police observe an individual committing a crime, such as driving while intoxicated, possession of a weapon, or the sale and possession of drugs.
Once a civilian makes a complaint or is observed by the police, a potential suspect may not be immediately arrested. The police may attempt to encourage the suspect to speak to the police in an attempt to obtain incriminating statements or to provide evidence or the proceeds of a crime. Shortly after the suspect speaks to the police or requests legal aid, the arrest may take place. Arrest occurs when the individual’s freedom has been physically restricted, either by handcuffs, physical restraint of the suspect, or threat of force. After arrest, the suspect is usually taken to the local police station for processing. Processing includes fingerprinting a suspect to determine the exact identity of the individual based on any prior criminal history. If the person does not have a police record, the fingerprint report will indicate so. Once the person has been printed, their NYSID number will appear on their fingerprint report. NYSID stands for New York State Identification. A person with a police record will be assigned the same NYSID number. A person who has never been arrested will be assigned a new NYSID number. The NYSID number is used to track the person’s criminal history throughout New York State. It also reveals whether the person has outstanding warrants, owes court fines, or is wanted in another state or jurisdiction. The suspect is also assigned an arrest number. The arrest number refers only to this particular arrest. In addition to printing and verifying records of the arrested person, photographs are also taken for identification purposes.
The next step in the process is the actual filing of a police report. The police report report is completed by the arresting officer. Provide a brief description of the crime, the evidence obtained, the names of the victims or witnesses, if any, and the precise charges for which the accused has been arrested. The arrest report also contains the defendant’s name, address, and personal information. This information, known as a pedigree, usually comes from the accused himself and becomes part of the official report. Once all of this information is collected, the defendant, arrest reports, fingerprint reports, and all other relevant information are transported to Central Booking. Central Booking is located in the Bronx Criminal Court building. The complete file prepared by the police is presented here to the Bronx District Attorney’s Office. The District Attorney reviews the whole matter and decides whether or not to proceed with the arrest process. If the prosecutor refuses to prosecute due to insufficient evidence, or for some other reason, the defendant will be released from custody and all collected records and photos will be erased. If the matter is not dismissed, the prosecutor will prepare a formal complaint to the criminal court.
The criminal court complaint is a more detailed complaint of all the charges brought against the accused. It contains information on the evidence obtained, the names of the witnesses, the times and places of the crimes charged, and an affidavit from the complaining witness or the arresting officer. Once this affidavit has been reviewed and signed, the entire matter is sent to the criminal court for arraignment. The arraignment is when the defendant is brought before a court and publicly notified that certain criminal charges have been brought against him. Before the arraignment, each criminal court complaint is assigned a docket number. The file number refers only to this particular judicial complaint. However, before the arraignment, the suspect, now charged, has the right to legal aid. The attorney appointed, or hired by the defendant, will receive a copy of the official criminal court complaint, along with a copy of the defendant’s criminal record. The attorney will then be allowed to speak with the defendant prior to the arraignment. The purpose of this interview is for the attorney to notify the defendant of the charges that have been filed, obtain any important information such as defense witnesses, discuss bail related issues, and answer all of the defendant’s legal questions. Once this is complete, the defendant is brought to court for arraignment. The arraignment itself usually does not last more than a few minutes. The prosecutor normally notifies the judge of the seriousness of the case in court and whether or not bail is requested. The prosecutor also notifies the defense attorney whether or not the defendant made statements, and whether the defendant was identified in a row or in some other way, such as photo identification. After the prosecutor finishes addressing the court, the defense attorney speaks on behalf of the defendant. The defense attorney’s primary goal at this time is to obtain the defendant’s release without bail or with minimal bail conditions. The attorney may argue that the matter in court is a misdemeanor, is legally insufficient, or represents the defendant’s first offense. The lawyer may also argue that the defendant maintains strong community ties, such as work and family, and is unlikely to justify this if he is released. At this point, the judge makes a decision on bail and simply adjourns the matter to continue with legal proceedings, completing the arraignment process.