Criminal Process from Arrest to Appeal
New York City Arraignment & Arrest & TrialThe start of a criminal case usually is when an arrest is done by a police officer or other law enforcement officers. An officer may arrest you if the officer witnesses a criminal act being committed by you or if there is reasonable cause to believe that you have committed violent crimes.
Following the arrest you will be transported to the precinct in which the crime is alleged to have occurred for fingerprinting and paperwork. At the discretion of the arresting officer for minor offences a Desk Appearance Ticket (DAT) might be issued. DAT would require you to return to court for arraignment on a designated date. (arraignment is your first appearance before a judge where you are notified of the criminal charges filed against you)
If DAT is not issued you are taken to local central booking, which is usually inside or adjacent to Criminal Court building, to appear before a judge for arraignment. When the case is ready to be heard in court you will be transferred to a holding pen adjacent to the arraignment courtroom . In New York City's Criminal Courts the person would be arraigned within 24 hours from the arrest. In the holding pen your attorney will meet with you and interview you before the arraignment begins and for purposes of bail application. The interview is for you to give your New York City attorney information and facts about the incident for proper legal aid, the arrest, possible witnesses, and your personal history.
Your Miranda RightsWhen arrested and in custody you are given Miranda Warnings by the police before they ask you questions about the commission of the crime. The Miranda Warnings inform you of your constitutional rights against self-incrimination and also your rights to an attorney. If you are facing violent crimes or criminal charges it is important for you to know your rights so you can take proper action. As anything you say may be used against you, you should be extremely careful about what you say while in custody. You should ask to speak with an attorney as soon as possible and refuse to answer any questions. If you do decide to answer questions without an attorney present you will still have the right to stop answering at any time until you talk to an attorney.
Pre-trialUnless you plead guilty, the case goes to trial and so your lawyer will start preparing your case for trial. S/he will request and receive discovery materials from the prosecutor (which contain statements by witnesses, police officers, medical personnel, description of your clothing and physical condition at the time of the arrest, description of property recovered from you or at the scene, 911 call recordings or police radio calls, and many other details concerning the alleged crime). Your attorney will also file appropriate motions and will conduct a thorough investigation of your case.
Before the trial, the court will hear any pre-trial motions concerning suppression of evidence or evidentiary issues that one side or the other anticipates will arise at trial. Motions to suppress evidence are based on improper actions by the police in arrest of the accused, and in the collecting of evidence, whether it be physical evidence, statements, or identification evidence. The law governing arrest and the taking of physical evidence falls within the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and protects against "unreasonable search and seizure".
If the motion involves an issue of fact which the parties do not agree upon, the judge will hold a hearing where evidence in the form of witness testimony, physical and documentary exhibits, and stipulations to uncontested facts will be presented.
The judge should resolve all pre-trial issues before commencing the trial. These issues may sometimes be dispositive, either in your favor or against you. For example if you are charged with possession of a weapon, and the weapon is suppressed as the result of an unlawful seizure, the prosecution may be unable to proceed to trial and your case will be dismissed.
If your case is not resolved by dismissal on motion of the prosecutor, by taking a plea or through order of the judge at the pre-trial hearing, it will eventually proceed to trial.
What Happens At TrialCriminal Trial is a formal examination of evidence to determine whether the person is guilty of the charged crime beyond reasonable doubt. A person has a right to a jury trial in all felony cases and in misdemeanor cases with sentence of six months or more imprisonment. A person also has the right to waive a jury trial and be tried by a judge.
Jury selection is the first stage of the trial, where the judge, prosecutor and your attorney question a group of jurors to determine if they can be fair and impartial in the case. If you have been charged with a felony, your case will be heard by a twelve-person jury. If you are charged with a Class A misdemeanor, your case will be heard by a six-person jury. Each side, your defense team and the prosecutor, may challenge any juror it believes to be legally unfit to serve, usually due to displayed bias or prejudice. Challenging a juror's position on the jury panel for this reason is referred to as challenge "for cause" and there are no limits on the number of these challenges.
After jury is selected and after judge gives the jury instructions on trial procedure and their duties and basic principles of law, opening statements are made in which the prosecutor and your attorney explain what the case is about and what evidence will show in the case. Your attorney may make an opening statement but is not required to do so. This is because under your constitutional rights when accused of a crime, it is up to the prosecutor (the accusatory party) to prove the case.
After the opening statements, the prosecution presents its evidence (direct examination). Your attorney may then question (cross-examine) the prosecution's evidence.
After presentation of prosecution's evidence, your attorney may present its evidence. You as someone charged with an offence have a right (in accordance with your 5th Amendment Constitutional Rights) to testify or remain silent. After each side's evidence is presented each side can offer evidence again in response to the other side's evidence.
After presentation of evidence, your attorney may deliver closing argument and prosecutor after that must deliver its closing argument. These arguments are made on basis of the evidence and are intended to persuade the jury on the case. Then the judge instructs the jury on the law and explains legal concepts and elements of the crime charged. After that the jury in private and closed room, considers the evidence presented to it and determines whether prosecutor has proven guilt beyond reasonable doubt by its evidence. The deliberation takes as long as a verdict is reached and the jury may ask to review the evidence again or may ask for more instructions on specific issues from the judge. If Jury decides evidence presented proves the accused's guilt beyond reasonable doubt, the verdict will be guilty and the case would be adjourned for sentencing. If the jury decides the evidence does not prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt the verdict would be not guilty. If the jury is unable to reach unanimous verdict the judge would declare a mistrial and it would be prosecution's decision whether or not to re-try the case.
SentencingIf a guilty verdict is reached, the case is adjourned for sentencing. The sentence received depends on factors such as, seriousness of the crime, mitigating circumstances, the convicted person's personal background and history, repeat offenders, youthful offenders, and other factors. Possible sentences depending on the crime could be imprisonment, probation, fine, conditional or unconditional discharge, or restitution.
AppealAfter sentencing, you have a right to appeal. Although in cases where you have pleaded guilty you may have waived your right to appeal certain issues of the case. Ultimately it is your decision and not your attorney's decision to appeal.