Anyone can be subject to arrest and criminal charges for alleged
wrongdoing. The police are the investigating and arresting agency. The
prosecutor (not the police) is the one who decides whether charges will be
filed and the prosecutor is the one who must prove the charge. The witnesses or victims are not in control
of the case, but they are free to express their wishes. The judge makes decisions regarding release
from jail, legal issues and sentencing.
The defense attorney is the guide, protector and advocate for the
County, state and federal governments all have codes and statutes
which identify some conduct as criminal. The significance of a crime is that someone
can lose his or her liberty, upon arrest and upon conviction. The next significant thing is that a criminal
conviction can be a liability in other ways.
A criminal conviction can result in loss of immigration status, future
goals, educational and career opportunities etc. This is different from a civil case in which
no jail can be imposed and it’s usually about money.
When: An arrest can occur at any
time – usually the most inconvenient time (since there is rarely a convenient
time to be arrested anyway). Charges
must be filed within 24 hours if the arrestee is held in custody. Charges can
be filed at a later time, but the arrestee cannot be held in jail longer than
24 hours without charges being filed. If
the filing of charges is delayed, the prosecutor has s maximum of two and one
half years from the arrest to file charges for simple misdemeanors and the timeframe
gets longer the more serious the charge.
Once a charge is filed, there are speedy trial timelines and customary
case processing timelines that vary based on the court and custody status of
Misdemeanor cases are handled by local courts and criminal courts
or courts of limited jurisdiction (called Justice Courts, etc).
Felony offenses are handled in the NYS
Supreme courts. Juvenile cases are
handled in Family Court with some exceptions.
How: A mere allegation can trigger a police
response and investigation. The investigation can be thorough or incomplete or somewhere
in between. It is the prosecutor who has the power to review police reports and
make a decision whether to charge a crime. There is no grand jury that makes
that decision in misdemeanor cases, again with some exceptions. The judge does
not have veto power over a charge. But a
jury does! A criminal charge is distressing,
but it is only the beginning and not the end.
This is where the quick overview ends. Each case is unique
and the best approach and defense varies from case to case. A strong and knowledgeable case strategy by a
knowledgeable criminal defense attorney requires establishing a working
relationship as soon as possible.