Pre-Arraignment 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 can 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.

At some point during this period of waiting, the detainee will meet with a social worker from the Criminal Justice Agency (CJA) who will prepare 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 even whether bail is set at all. 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.

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 one of New York City’s pre-arraignment detention centers are 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 top New York City 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.

For more information on the arrest process including how retained counsel can improve the odds of receiving a favorable bail order at arraignment, additional articles on New York’s arrest process may be found here.

While we cannot guarantee a particular outcome to yours or their case, we can guarantee retaining a lawyer during pre-arraignment detention will help prepare you for the bail argument at arraignment while also minimizing the risk of being subjected to questioning by local prosecutors during pre-arraignment detention. Call us at the Law Offices of Jeffrey Lichtman at (212) 581-1001 to schedule a free consultation on yours or your loved one’s New York City arrest and criminal case today.

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