ASK THE DA: Arrest to Grand Jury

April 15, 2013 Charles J. Hynes
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A friend recently had the unfortunate experience of being a victim of a crime.  The individual who stole the property was arrested and we are not sure what exactly happens at this point.

                A criminal case usually starts with a person’s arrest by the police. After the arrest, basic personal information is gathered, and the person is fingerprinted and photographed.  The person is then brought before a Criminal Court judge to be “arraigned” on the charges he or she is accused of committing.

                At arraignment, the prosecution officially begins. The accused person, now called the defendant, is told about the pending criminal charges. He or she enters a plea of guilty or not guilty. If a not guilty plea is entered, the judge decides if the defendant will be released on bail. Also, the judge will assign a lawyer to represent the defendant if he or she cannot afford one.

                If the defendant is accused of committing a misdemeanor, the case remains in Criminal Court and is adjourned to a later date. If the defendant is accused of committing a felony, a crime for which a prison sentence of more than one year can be imposed, and the defendant is not released on bail, the case must be presented to a grand jury within 120 to 144 hours unless the defendant waives this requirement.

If the grand jury does not indict the defendant within that time frame, the court must release the defendant unless certain exceptions apply. Even if the defendant is released, the grand jury may still hear the case and indict the defendant.

In New York State, if a defendant is charged with a felony, the case must be presented to a grand jury unless the defendant waives this right. A grand jury consists of 23 community members.

At least 16 must be present to hear a case, and 12 are needed to vote and return a “true bill,” also known as an indictment. Grand jurors are selected from the same jury rolls used for all of us when we are called to jury duty.

During a grand jury proceeding, an assistant district attorney presents evidence in a secret proceeding. If the grand jury votes to indict a defendant, he or she is arraigned once again, this time in New York State Supreme Court, where a new bail determination is made. The case will remain in Supreme Court until its final resolution.

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