In general, from the time a person is arrested until the trial, it can often take about one year, though of course there is always the possibility that your case will be dismissed or plea bargained, and that can happen at any time. In fact, the length of time that any given New York criminal case might take depends on a number of factors, and your best bet to find out the timeline of your particular case is to seek out the counsel of an experienced New York criminal defense lawyer.
However, there are broad guidelines that describe when each part of the process legally needs to occur, depending on whether you are being accused of a felony, a misdemeanor, or a violation.
Process for New York Criminal Case
- Arrest – For any criminal charge, this can occur at any time within the statue of limitations for that particular crime. For example, murder has no statue of limitations; you can be arrested at any time. But for felony burglary, you must be arrested within 5 years. For further information on this, speak to an experienced New York criminal lawyer.
- Arraignment – This has to occur within 36 hours of your arrest, whether you’re being charged with a felony or a lesser crime. At your arraignment, you will officially hear the charges against you, and bail will be set.
- Preliminary hearing – Though rare, if you are being charged with a felony and the prosecutor feels that he or she has a strong case against you, this may be the next step. Generally, these hearings are held to convince you to plea bargain before going to trial. Preliminary hearings must occur within 6 days of the arraignment.
- Grand Jury – You can waive Grand Jury proceedings during your arraignment, and most defendants do, since they often result in an indictment of at least some charge against you. However, if the charges seem so baseless that the Grand Jury does not indict you, the charges will be completely dismissed. The Grand Jury must occur within 6 days of your arraignment unless you waive it or get an extension.
- Arraignment on Indictment – If you choose to have a Grand Jury hear the case, this arraignment of their charges against you must be held within 36 hours of their indictment.
- Motions/Hearings – If you’ve just been charged with a misdemeanor or violation, this is automatically the next step. It’s also the next step if you waive your right to a preliminary hearing and a Grand Jury. Motions and hearings happen before your case goes to trial and deal with evidence issues, and other potential legal violations that could lead to the dismissal of your case. These motions and hearings can go on for as long as 2 years.
- Trial – In all but the most petty of cases, you have the right to a trial by jury, which will typically take between 4 to 14 days. Some very complex jury trials can take weeks or months, however. In some cases, your lawyer may suggest you have a trial by judge alone. These non-jury trials are much faster, and can be over in the span of a day.
- Pre-Sentence Investigation – Before sentencing you, the judge must be given a great deal of information about your history, including education, employment, family, and past criminal acts. Sometimes they even do a medical or psychological exam. This period has to conclude within 1 year of your conviction.
- Sentencing – This must take place after the pre-sentence investigation, but must occur within 1 year of your conviction.
Get Help from a Qualified New York Criminal Defense Attorney
For further information about your specific circumstances, contact an experienced New York criminal lawyer today and make sure you’re getting the best legal help possible. The sooner you get help, the better your attorney will be able to protect your interests in order to get you the best possible outcome. Even if you are just being questioned about a case, or are a suspect or person of interest, you should get legal help to find out what you can do to prevent being charged with a crime in the state of New York.
By Eric Sachs