Arrest and Arraignment

In New York City, an arrest in usually processed in two different ways: (1) a conventional arrest where the accused is brought from the police precinct directly to the courthouse to see the judge, or (2) a Desk Appearance Ticket (DAT). The process for both of these options is explained in greater detail below.

If a person has just been arrested, it is very important to obtain a criminal lawyer during this crucial time period. A criminal lawyer will often be able to speak directly to the police about the arrest and learn about the criminal charges on the arrest report. Sometimes a criminal lawyer can convince the police not to make an arrest, or in the alternative convince the police to issue a desk appearance ticket, which can stop the accused from sitting in jail for 24 hours or more to see the judge.

Also, a criminal lawyer can negotiate with the police to allow family or friends of the accused to pick up property from the precinct, and to bring food or necessary medicine to the accused. A lawyer can also obtain and share valuable information to the family about the accused’s whereabouts, which court he will proceed to, and when he will see the judge.

Perhaps most importantly, hiring a lawyer quickly after an arrest will give the lawyer a chance to notify the police and the District Attorney’s office that he represents the suspect, and prevent the police and District Attorney from trying to interrogate or question the suspect. This is critical, because often the best evidence the police may have against a person is the confession they get from the individual after the person is detained.

The police are trained and highly skilled at getting a person to make a statement about the incident – it is one of their most important jobs. These statements can be used to bury an individual in court, costing a person years of freedom, or making the difference between a not guilty and a guilty verdict at trial. An experienced criminal lawyer, if hired in time, can prevent this from occurring. A lawyer can also make sure that the accused is brought in front of a judge as quickly as possible, and that the suspect is either released from jail, or that bail is set as low as possible.

1. Arrest where accused is brought directly to courthouse

When a suspect is detained for a crime, he is usually brought first to the nearest police precinct for questioning, possible identification by witnesses, and for fingerprinting and photographing. He may also be searched for evidence or contraband at the precinct. Once the suspect is brought to precinct and processed, he is then usually brought to ‘central booking’ which is the holding area at the criminal courthouse that has jurisdiction over the case. The suspect is then held at central booking with numerous other suspects until it is his turn to see the judge.

This process is supposed to take no more than 24 hours from the point of arrest until when he sees the judge. However, the process can take much longer- depending on the seriousness of the crime and which borough or part of New York he is arrested in. For example- if a person is arrested in Manhattan or Queens, they are often brought before the judge within 24 hours, or even earlier. However, if the suspect is arrested in the Bronx or in Brooklyn, suspects are routinely held for 48 or even 72 hours before they see the judge.

Hiring a criminal lawyer at this point can often speed up the process, and ensure that the suspect is brought before the judge in a timely manner. A lawyer can also go to central booking and speak to the suspect about the situation and coordinate with the family. It should be noted that a person often has a better chance at arraignment if he has family present when the suspect sees the judge, especially if the charges are serious. A criminal lawyer can coordinate with the family and let them know when the suspect will see the judge, so that the family will not have to sit blindly in court for 1 or 2 days, not knowing what is happening to their loved one.

2. Desk Appearance Ticket (DAT)

A DAT is the 2nd manner in which the police can process an arrest. It is much simpler, and avoids the requirement that the suspect sit in the jail at the courthouse for 24 hours or more waiting to see the judge.

What occurs during a desk appearance ticket is the suspect is brought to the police precinct, they are officially arrested, photographed, fingerprinted. But instead of being brought directly to the courthouse, they are released with a summons and allowed to return to court on their own. The court date is written on the ticket, and is usually 6 to 8 weeks in the future.

The NYPD has specific guidelines on who can be given a DAT. It usually must be your first arrest, and the offense must be a low-level, non-violent charge. The NYPD absolutely will not issue a DAT if there are any allegations of domestic violence. You cannot have any warrants, and must possess the proper documentation to verify your identity and place of residence. If a criminal lawyer is hired at the time of arrest, they can sometimes negotiate with the police and convince them to issue a DAT.