New York Criminal Arraignment Frequently Asked Questions
What happens during a criminal arraignment?
After your arrest, your first court appearance will be during your arraignment. Arraignments are not the same as criminal trials. During the arraignment, the prosecution will give the judge a complaint which states the charges against you. The complaint will be prepared based on police evidence and your prior criminal history.
The arraignment is the first time you will hear the formal charges being made against you. Sometimes the charges might be different from those you expect. For this reason, it’s important to have an experienced New York arraignment lawyer at the arraignment to understand the charges and review your options.
What about bail?
The arraignment is the time at which the issue of bail will be addressed by the court. The judge might choose to release you on your own recognizance, in which case no one will need to post bail. Alternatively, the judge might post bail or declare that you must be held without bail.
Prosecutions usually argue that bail amounts should be high or eliminated entirely. Your defense attorney will need to make the case for a lower bail. The judge’s decision will be based around multiple factors including the seriousness of the charges, your community ties, the evidence mounted against you, your previous criminal record, whether you have a good history of arriving on time to predetermined court appearances, and any other factors that influence whether you might be a flight risk.
ROR (release on recognizance) generally won’t be used except in cases that involve misdemeanors or low level felonies. That said, ROR might also be employed when the defendant doesn’t have a previous criminal history.
Regardless of whether bail is posted or not, you’re required to be at all of your subsequent court hearings. You’re also required to attend court for each day of your trial, should your case proceed to trial.
What is a bench warrant?
As previously mentioned, you’re required to be present at all of your court hearings and during each phase of your trial. This remains true regardless of whether bail was posted or you were released on recognizance. If you don’t arrive for your court dates at the appointed time, it is the judge’s responsibility to issue a bench warrant for you to be arrested.
Bench warrants are warrants that don’t require the police to actively search for you. But if you come into contact with any law enforcement officials during a traffic stop or other encounter, you will be arrested immediately. You might also be subjected to more criminal charges, have your posted bail risked, and have the judge revoke your bail or set a substantially higher bail.
What about after the arraignment?
After your arraignment, the way you proceed will depend on your options and your unique circumstances. You’ll need to have your defense attorney to walk you through the process. Defense attorneys have studied and practiced law for years, and they understand the options that you have available to you.
When the charge or charges are a misdemeanor, hearings and motions will take place. If there is no plea agreement for you to plead guilty, the case will be tried and reach a verdict through the trial process.
When the charge or charges are a felony, the case is given to a grand jury. The grand jury has a choice at the arraignment about whether or not to indict. If they choose to indict, the case will proceed to a Supreme Court arraignment. Then hearings and motions will take place. This is the point at which a defendant might enter a guilty plea; if no agreement is reached, the case will go to trial.