Regardless of the crime, being charged will likely leave you experiencing a range of emotions, including stress, confusion, anxiety, anger, fear, and maybe helplessness.

Of course, that experience is normal. Facing criminal charges is scary. Not only might you worry about jail time and expensive fines, but also how an arrest and possible conviction will affect your job or business, family, relationships, and reputation.

However, if you had at least a clear picture of what was going to happen next, you might be able to alleviate those overwhelming feelings and make good decisions. So let’s take a look at the criminal process from beginning to end, so you know what to expect along the way.

What Happens If You Are Arrested or Charged in New York

After the Arrest. After you’re arrested, you will be taken into police custody, where the arresting officer is supposed to inform you of your Miranda Rights[1] – your right to remain silent and your right to an attorney before answering police questions. Then, usually within 24 hours of your arrest, you will be arraigned[2] in a criminal court.

Four things can happen at arraignment:

  1. You may plead guilty and the judge will deliver your sentence.
  2. You may plead not guilty to misdemeanors and violations. Bail might be set or you might be released on your own recognizance. Your case will be adjourned from arraignment court and moved to the All Purpose Part Criminal Court.
  3. Your case may be dismissed.
  4. If you are charged with a felony, your case can be adjourned for a hearing by the Grand Jury.

Misdemeanors and Violations. After your case is arraigned, you will move to the all-purpose part criminal court. If you enter a guilty plea here, the judge will sentence you. If you enter a not guilty plea, pretrial matters such as hearings and legal motions will be addressed. At this point, your case can possibly be dismissed, or if you change your plea to guilty, you will be sentenced.

If you maintain a not guilty plea, you will go to trial, where the prosecution must prove you committed the crime(s) charged and your attorney will defend you against the prosecution’s claims. After both sides rest, the 6-member jury will deliberate and decide unanimously whether you are guilty or not guilty. If you are found not guilty, (“acquitted”) you will be free to go. If you are found guilty, you will then be sentenced.

Felonies. A felony case has many more steps. The Grand Jury could dismiss your case or vote for an indictment. If you are indicted, you will be arraigned in the Supreme Court and enter your plea. A guilty plea will result in a sentence. A not guilty plea will move your case on to motions and hearings, which can include discovery, motions to dismiss, motions to suppress evidence and a number of others.

If you maintain your not guilty plea, you will then go to trial. The 12-member jury will hear both sides of the case and then deliberate to unanimously decide on a verdict. If you receive a guilty verdict, you will be sentenced. If you receive a not guilty verdict, the jury decided that the case was not proven beyond a reasonable doubt and you will be free to leave.

Even though criminal proceedings seem complicated, they are actually pretty straightforward, following a clear path depending upon your plea at every stage. Having an experienced New York criminal defense attorney will help you make decisions and build the best defense to get your charges reduced, dismissed, or dropped. Contact a skilled defense attorney today to protect your rights and fight your New York charges.

[1] You have the right to remain silent;
Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law;
You have the right to an attorney.
If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.
Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?

[2] Arraignment is a formal reading of a criminal charging document (“accusatory instrument”) in the presence of the defendant to inform the defendant of the charges against them. In response to arraignment, the accused is expected to enter a plea.

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