Pre-Arraignment Process in New York City

As the best New York criminal attorneys know, formal processing of arrests for most felony and some misdemeanor offenses typically result in a trip to Central Booking, a separate building specific to the city borough where your arrest was made. At Central Booking, local precincts may perform more extensive background checks and registration procedures than otherwise possible at the precinct. Once that is complete (which typically takes more than a few hours), recent arrestees are placed in a gender-segregated cell in the prisoner holding area of the arraignment court of that county. At this point, the arrestee is now considered a pre-arraignment detainee – who will, along with others, await arraignment on a misdemeanor or felony complaint to be filed by the District Attorney’s Office. You do not have to face the pre-arraignment process in New York City alone. Do not hesitate to contact our team and ask for legal support throughout this process.

Does a Detainee have the Right to an Attorney During Pre-Arraignment?

A person arrested for a crime has the right to an attorney, including during the period before arraignment. In fact, hiring an attorney early in the process could speed up arraignment and assist a defendant in getting out of jail faster.

For individuals released on a desk appearance ticket after their arrest, obtaining legal counsel prior to arraignment is a simple task. A desk appearance ticket frees a person from jail but requires that they return to court at a later date. These individuals should contact an attorney the moment they leave the jail.

However, not every person charged with a crime will be released on a desk appearance ticket. Those facing serious charges or lacking identification can be held in court until their arraignment. In these cases, an attorney can speed up the process significantly. Because they are in jail, a family member or loved one may need to arrange for legal counsel on their behalf.

Speaking with Police During the Pre-Arraignment Process

After an arrest but before booking, it is common for the arresting officer or other police officials to attempt to speak with a person facing criminal charges. Typically, this is in the guise of giving that person the chance to “clear things up” or tell “their side of the story.”

These questions are really about building a case against the defendant. Everything a person says during these interviews could be used against them at trial, making it vital to avoid discussing the case at all. Even individuals that are certain of their innocence should never discuss their case with police without first speaking to legal counsel. Outside of basic details such as their name or address, it is never beneficial to speak with police after an arrest.

What Happens During a Meeting with CJA Officials?

At some point during the pre-arraignment process, the detainee will meet with a social worker from the Criminal Justice Agency (CJA) who prepares a report for the court on the issue of whether bail should or should not be set as a precondition for release. While CJA officials are not lawyers, the interview is critically important. What is said here may ultimately determine whether the court finds you a flight risk – which will affect the amount of bail set in the case or whether bail is set at all.

In New York City, some of the more typical questions that are asked of pre-arraignment detainees at this interview commonly include: whether you possess any employment within the state, whether you have any in-state residence, preferably within the Greater New York area as well as questions on your family ties in the state. Like pedigree or background information, the information provided to the CJA official is not likely to be incriminatory and providing them with what they ask here should not serve as a detriment to your case. In fact, cooperating with the CJA official and emphasizing any facts that would indicate, upon release, your willingness to voluntarily return to face the charges filed by the state can only increase the odds of receiving a favorable bail order at arraignment.

What Is Pre-Arraignment Detention?

Unfortunately, absolutely no part of pre-arraignment detention is pleasant. Although constitutionally required to be held “promptly after arrest,” Gerstein v. Pugh, 420 U.S. 103, 125 (1975), it is not uncommon in New York City for detainees to wait upwards of 24 hours after arrest for arraignment, especially on weekends. In addition, holding cells in a pre-arraignment detention center is often both overcrowded and unsanitary as thousands of people are processed in any given week.

For those who are relying on counsel to be appointed by the court, it will not happen until being called for arraignment. Until then, you may be sought out in your cell by the prosecutor and, if no counsel has been retained, none will be made available for this informal interview. Nevertheless, there is no obligation to talk and prosecutors, like police, must respect your right to remain silent. The less said to law enforcement without the presence of a defense attorney, the better. By retaining experienced counsel early on in the arrest process, the impromptu interrogations and unsanitary living conditions that are characteristic of pre-arraignment detention in New York City may be avoided.

Call a New York City Attorney for Information on the Pre-Arraignment Process

For more information on the arrest process including how retained counsel can improve the odds of receiving a favorable bail order at arraignment, contact the Law Offices of Jeffrey Lichtman

While we cannot guarantee a particular outcome of a case, we can guarantee retaining a lawyer during the pre-arraignment process in New York City will help prepare you for the bail argument and minimize the risk of being subjected to questioning by local prosecutors. Call us to schedule a free consultation on yours or your loved one’s arrest and criminal case today.

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