In New York State, a person can be arrested for allegedly committing any offense. The terms “offense,” “traffic infraction,” “misdemeanor,” and “felony,” are defined in Section 10 of the NYS Penal Law. An offense is basically anything for which a person can be imprisoned or fined by any governmental entity in New York. Traffic infractions and violations are not considered to be crimes. The only offenses which are crimes in New York State are misdemeanors and felonies. The difference between the two is that a misdemeanor is an offense for which a person can be imprisoned for up to one year and a felony is an offense for which a person can be sentenced to a term of imprisonment greater than one year.
Once a person has been arrested, he/she goes through a booking process. Booking is a three-step process which consists of fingerprinting, submitting the accused's fingerprints to the New York State computerized criminal record index, and obtaining the accused's criminal record, if one exists. In many misdemeanor cases in New York City, the police will issue a Desk Appearance Ticket (DAT) instead of bringing the accused person to Central Booking. This is preferable since it allows the accused to go home and return to court at a later date instead of being held in jail while waiting to appear before a judge. The option of being issued a DAT is not available for felony cases or for certain misdemeanor cases. After being processed, if the charged person has not been issued a DAT, he/she will be brought before a judge for an arraignment. At the arraignment, the judge usually will decide the amount of bail or will release the defendant on his/her own recognizance (ROR). In the most serious cases, the judge will remand the defendant, meaning he/she will be held without bail.
An individual who is arrested is not required to retain a lawyer. However, the criminal justice system is complicated, and the stakes are high. It is usually a good idea to hire a lawyer if you have been charged with a crime and are able to afford it. Individuals who are indigent are provided with a lawyer who is compensated by the government. Some of the crimes for which people are frequently arrested are property crimes such as shoplifting, robbery, and burglary, drug crimes, and DWIs. New York State publishes a handbook online which does a good job explaining the criminal justice process. If you have been arrested and charged with a crime, I am available to discuss your case. I do not charge a consultation fee.