Bronx Criminal Lawyer’s Guide – The Road from Arrest to Charge in Bronx County, New York

Bronx Criminal Lawyer’s Guide – The Road from Arrest to Charge in Bronx County, New York

There is a common belief among lawyers, as well as the general public, that all criminal cases beginning with an arrest somewhere in the United States follow some precise, consistent, and direct path leading to a formal trial. This, unfortunately, is far from reality. There are many factors that have an important impact on the post-arrest process. These factors include, but are not limited to, where the person was arrested, the availability of a functioning judicial center nearby, access to an attorney, the availability of prosecutors, court officers, stenographers, computer systems, and many other important elements of any court process. Persons 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 upon to conduct the prosecution – quite often in the back of the police station – are not lawyers at all. Many arraignments are held without an attorney, prosecutor, court officials, or even stenographers. Fortunately, a person arrested in Bronx County, New York will, with few exceptions, follow a well-organized path leading directly to his or her arraignment. There are available courts, lawyers, prosecutors, stenographers and all those persons or systems necessary for the timely and orderly movement of the matter. However orderly, the process can appear Kafkaesque to the general public and even to the untrained legal practitioner. Below is a road map outlining the exact journey that almost all cases take from the time of arrest to formal charges.

All criminal cases in the Bronx, New York begin with a report of a crime, either by civilian witnesses or by police officers. A civilian who reports a crime can be an actual eyewitness, a victim of a crime, 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 light. The police can file a criminal complaint against an individual in the absence of victims or witnesses. This usually occurs when the police observe a person committing an offense such as drink driving, possession of a weapon, or the sale and possession of drugs.

Following a civilian complaint or police surveillance, a potential suspect may not be immediately arrested. Attempts may be made by the police to encourage the suspect to speak to the police in an attempt to obtain incriminating statements or to provide evidence of or the proceeds of a crime. Soon after the suspect either talks to the police or requests an attorney, the actual arrest can be made. An arrest is made when the person’s freedom has been physically restricted by handcuffs, physical restraint of the suspect, or by the threat of force. After arrest, the suspect is usually taken to the local police station for processing. The processing involves fingerprinting a suspect to determine the person’s exact identity based on prior criminal history. If the person has no previous police record, this will be indicated on the fingerprint report. Once the person is printed, their NYSID number will appear on their fingerprint report. NYSID stands for New York State Identification. A person with a previous police record will receive the same NYSID number. A person who has never been arrested will receive a new NYSID number. The NYSID number is used to track an individual’s criminal history throughout New York State. It also reveals whether or not the person has any outstanding warrants, owes court fines, or is wanted in another state or jurisdiction. The suspect was also given an arrest number. The arrest number refers only to that particular arrest. In addition to printing and checking the arrestee’s records, identification photographs are also taken.

The next step in the process is actually filing a complaint report with the police. The police complaint report is completed by the arresting officer. It provides a brief description of the crime, the evidence collected, the names of the victims or witnesses, if any, and the exact charges for which the accused was arrested. The arrest report also contains the name, address and personal information of the accused. 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 Courthouse. Here, the entire file prepared by the police is presented to the Bronx District Attorney’s Office. The District Attorney reviews the entire matter and decides whether or not to proceed with the detention process. If the prosecutor refuses to press charges due to lack of evidence or for any other reason, the accused will be released from custody and all records and photos collected will be deleted. If the matter is not dismissed, the prosecutor will prepare a formal complaint in criminal court.

A criminal complaint is a more detailed complaint about all the charges brought against the defendant. It contains information about the evidence obtained, the names of the witnesses, the times and places of the crimes charged, and an affidavit by the complaining witness or the arresting officer. Once this affidavit is reviewed and signed, the entire matter is sent to the criminal court for arraignment. An arraignment is when the accused is brought before a court and publicly notified that certain criminal charges have been brought against him. Prior to arraignment, each criminal court complaint is assigned a file number. The case number refers only to that particular appeal in the criminal court. Before the actual accusation, however, the suspect, already accused, has the right to a lawyer. The attorney appointed or retained by the defendant will receive a copy of the formal criminal complaint along with a copy of the defendant’s criminal record. The lawyer will then be allowed to speak to the defendant before the arraignment. The purpose of this interview is for the lawyer to inform the defendant of the charges, obtain any important information such as defense witnesses, discuss bail issues, and answer any legal questions the defendant may have. Once this is completed, the defendant is brought before the court for arraignment. The actual charge usually takes no more than a few minutes. The prosecutor usually informs the judge of the seriousness of the case before the court and whether bail is sought or not. The prosecutor also advises defense counsel whether or not the defendant has made a statement and whether the defendant has been identified in a lineup or otherwise, such as photo identification. After the prosecutor has finished addressing the court, the defense attorney speaks on behalf of the defendant. The defense attorney’s primary goal at this point is to obtain the defendant’s release without bail or with minimum bail conditions. The attorney may argue that the matter before the court is a misdemeanor, that it is legally insufficient, or that it represents the defendant’s first offense. The lawyer may also argue that the defendant maintains strong ties in the community, such as work and family, and is unlikely to acquit if released. At this point, the judge makes a bail decision and simply adjourns the matter for further court proceedings, completing the prosecution process.

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