FAQ

How can I find out when my case is on next?

A very good web resource devloped and maintained by the Unified Court System of New York is WEBCRIMS. It will tell you the next court date and part for the case, as well as the procedural history of the case. It is usually very accurate.

How can I find out what courtroom my case is in?

If you can find your case in WEBCRIMS, it will give you the date and the court part of your next appearance.

Court calendars are posted daily in the lobby of each courthouse. Cases are listed by either docket or indictment number, or by name. If your name does not appear on the calendar, go to the Central Clerk’s Office in the courthouse.

What do I do if I missed my court date?

If you missed your court date, contact your attorney immediately, since it is likely that the judge issued a warrant for your arrest, known as a bench warrant. If it has only been a few days report to the Central Clerk’s Office in the borough your case was scheduled to clear up the warrant. Bring any documents that might explain your absence.

If it has been a longer period of time or you were charged with a felony, it is especially important for you to speak to your lawyer before coming to court to clear the warrant. Your lawyer can advise you what to expect in court, documents you might bring to court to explain your absence, and arrange to be with you when you come to court to surrender on a warrant.

What do I do if I know I have a warrant?

Before you go to court to clear a bench warrant – especially for a felony charge – you should consult with a lawyer. A lawyer can advise you about what to expect in court, documents you might bring to court to explain your absence, and can arrange to be there when you come to court to clear the warrant.

To clear a warrant you must first go to the Central Clerk’s Office in the courthouse where your case is being heard. It is best to go to the clerk’s office when the courthouse opens at 9:00a.m. to be sure to have enough time to clear the warrant, since it can take time for the court staff to locate your case file. The clerk will probably instruct you to go to the court part to wait for the case to be called. It can take some time for the papers to be sent to the court part. Be patient.

What can I expect if I am arrested?

Since arrests occur in so many different situations, it is difficult to predict with any precision the exact circumstances that someone who is arrested will encounter. This Guide provides general information about arrest processing in New York City, and what to expect in most cases if you are arrested.

Arrest Processing

If you are arrested, you will be handcuffed, and except in unusual circumstances, you will first be taken to the precinct in which the arrest occurred for initial processing. At the precinct, a police officer will interview you and ask for “pedigree” information, including your name, address, date of birth, Social Security number, etc. Once you have been fingerprinted you will be taken to Central Booking and processed for arraignment, which is an appearance before a judge.

If you know in advance that you might be arrested (for example, you are planning to engage in civil disobedience during a demonstration, or voluntarily appear at a precinct at the request of the police), or are arrested at your home, you can prepare for arrest. Leave most personal property at home, but do take two forms of identification with you. Picture identification cards, such as a current driver’s license or student identification card, are best. You should also bring a supply of quarters for telephone calls.

At the precinct, a police officer will search you and take personal property, such as house keys, backpacks, purses, medication, large sums of money, or valuable jewelry, as well as any unlawful items you happen to have in your possession (contraband). Items other than contraband are held for safekeeping while you are in custody. You will be given a “Voucher” form listing your property, so that you can retrieve it later. However, if an officer is processing a large number of arrests at one time, your Voucher form is not ready before you are taken to a cell or another location. If this happens, ask the officer for the “Voucher number” that will be used for your property, and also write down the officer’s name and shield number. Having this information will make it easier for you to retrieve your property once you are released.

If you have any item that the police officer believed to be contraband, that item will be listed on a separate voucher as “arrest evidence,” and will not be available for you to pick up later. It is also probable that you will be charged with a crime, relating to possession of the contraband.

If you are charged with a crime (a misdemeanor or felony, as defined by the Penal Law, Vehicle and Traffic Law or New York City Administrative Code), you will be fingerprinted and photographed. If you are charged only with offenses classified as violations (such as disorderly conduct under the Penal Law) you will probably not be fingerprinted. However, if the police are unable to establish your identity, suspect that you are giving false information about your identity, or believe that you are a wanted person, they may take your fingerprints even if you are only charged with a violation.

The police will check to see if you are wanted for an arrest or court warrant, summons or unpaid traffic ticket. If there is a warrant, you may have to spend additional time in jail before arraignment while the court locates the paperwork. If the warrant is from a county other than the one in which you are arrested, you may have to remain in jail after the arraignment and be transferred to that county.

It is possible, but highly unlikely, that you will be released on a Desk Appearance Ticket (DAT), which will require you to appear at the courthouse on a later date for arraignment on the charges. The issuance of a DAT is entirely up to the discretion of the police. If you are lucky enough to receive a DAT, the release will occur while you are at the precinct.

The precinct processing typically takes four to six hours. During this time, you will be held in a cell. You will be permitted to make up to three free calls within New York City, or three collect calls to out-of-town numbers. There may be pay telephones in the cell for your use. If you are not being released on a DAT, you will next be taken to Central Booking, which is located at the courthouse where you will be arraigned (See, Your Stay at Central Booking, below).

Your Miranda Rights

You have probably heard on television the speech that is read after an arrest: “You have the right to remain silent. Anything that 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 appointed for you free of charge.” These are the “Miranda warnings,” which explain your constitutional right not to answer questions posed by the police and to have a lawyer appointed to represent you if you cannot afford to hire one.

In many arrests, the police do not attempt to take a statement from the person who is arrested. In such situations, the police may not read the Miranda warnings, since they are only required to do this when they intend to question a suspect. You should be aware that anything that you say in the presence of a police officer might be used against you, even if the Miranda warnings have not been given. Police are even allowed to use statements that they overhear you make during a telephone call, or while you are talking to other prisoners. You should therefore be extremely careful what you say while you are in custody.

If the police decide to question you, their goal will be to gain an admission that can be used in the case against you. You should not answer questions or make a statement to the police unless there is a lawyer present to protect your rights. Sometimes people under arrest decide to make statements without a lawyer because they believe that they can persuade the police to let them go, process them faster, or gain some other benefit. This almost never happens, and the statements that such people make seriously hurt their cases. If you have information that will help your case, wait to tell it to your lawyer, who will help you decide the best way to use this information.

If you are already represented by a lawyer, you should tell the police and request ask them to notify your lawyer about your arrest.

Your Stay at Central Booking

As a result of a successful lawsuit filed by The Legal Aid Society’s Special Litigation Unit, medical screening is provided to all people who are arrested in New York City, to ensure that they have access to necessary medical treatment while in police custody. Thus, when you are moved to Central Booking, you will see an EMS paramedic, who will ask you routine questions about your health and recent exposure to communicable diseases, such as tuberculosis (TB). This interview is confidential, and is done to protect people who are awaiting arraignment. The EMS paramedic is trying to determine if you have a medical condition that should be monitored while you are there, or whether you have a contagious condition that might spread to other people. (The section below on “Medication Issues” gives more information on issues affecting people who regularly take prescription medication.)

After you see a paramedic, you will begin a long wait for arraignment. While you are waiting, the paperwork required for your arraignment will be completed and assembled, and you case will be “docketed” for court. You will probably be moved several times while you await arraignment, and can expect to spend 8 to 12 hours in the courthouse before you see your lawyer, and then the judge. As a result of the Special Litigation Unit’s lawsuit, you will be offered food during this waiting period: cereal and milk for breakfast, and sandwiches and a fruit punch for lunch and dinner. Sandwiches are made with cheese or processed Halal lunch meat. You have a right to request a cheese sandwich if you do not eat meat. You also have a right to request drinking water, soap and toilet paper if these items necessities are not provided. Also as a result of the lawsuit, sanitary pads are available for female prisoners, and most cells have pay telephones.

During the waiting period, you may also be interviewed by someone from the Criminal Justice Agency, an independent agency that evaluates arrested persons’ work histories and family and ties, in order to recommend to the court whether they can be trusted to return to court without bail, or whether bail should be set. In order to improve your chances for release, you should give the interviewer your current work and residence information, and the name and telephone number of a person who can verify your information.

Thanks to successful litigation by The Legal Aid Society, people arrested in New York must be arraigned within 24 hours unless the police can provide a reasonable explanation for the delay. And because of our continuing and persistent vigilance, you can anticipate being arraigned within 18 to 24 hours.

Medication Issues

Some people need to take prescription medications for serious medical conditions, such as diabetes, asthma, HIV, epilepsy or hypertension. If you are on a regular medication schedule, you may need to take your medication at certain times of the day. Other people, such as those with conditions such as asthma or angina, need to take medication at the onset of symptoms.

No matter the nature or severity of your condition, you will not be allowed to keep your medication on you after you are arrested. However, if you anticipate that you will be arrested and want to take your medication while you are in custody, it is still a good idea to bring a one or two-day supply of your medication in its pharmacy-issued prescription bottle. The police officer who processes your arrest is supposed to fill out a Medical Treatment of Prisoner form recording the information on your prescription bottle, including the name of the medication and dosing information, and the name and telephone number for the pharmacy and your doctor. This form will accompany you through the arrest processing and will be provided to the EMS paramedic and any other health care workers you encounter while in custody, although the medication itself will be held at the precinct where you are processed, along with any other property that has been vouchered.

If you do not have your prescription medication with you but want the information about it to be available to the health care workers who will see you, you can ask a member of your household to bring it to the station. The police will not accept the medication from the household member, but are required to record the information on the prescription bottle on your Medical Treatment of Prisoner Form, along with contact information for the household member who came to the precinct.

It is up to you to tell the police, the corrections officers or the EMS paramedics at Central Booking that you need medication. For people with asthma or other conditions that cause trouble breathing, the paramedics have oxygen supplies and over-the-counter inhalers available.

While you are in Central Booking, you should as to be taken to the EMS station if you feel sick. The paramedic will evaluate your condition, and if it appears that you need medication or treatment, police regulations require that you be taken to a hospital emergency room, where a doctor will provide treatment and administer required medication.

It has been our experience that some police officers try to discourage people who need medication from asking for it, by telling them that a trip to the hospital for medication will delay their release from jail by several days. THIS IS NOT TRUE. On average, people who go to the hospital for medication get out of jail just as quickly as people who do not.

Once you get to the hospital, explain to the doctor your exact medication needs. If information about your prescription was recorded on a Medical Treatment of Prisoner form, call that to the doctor’s attention. If the doctor agrees that the medication is medically necessary, the hospital will issue enough medication to get you through the arraignment process. This medication will be held for you at the Emergency Medical Services station at Central Booking. You will go there each time you need to take your medication.

The Arraignment

Once all of the paperwork has been completed your case will be docketed (i.e., assigned to an arraignment courtroom) and you will be brought to a holding cell attached to the courtroom in which your arraignment will occur. If you have pre-arranged to be represented by your own lawyer, that attorney will notify the clerks and/or court officers in the part by submitting a “Notice of Appearance.” If you do not have your own lawyer the court will assign an attorney to represent you. In either case the attorney will be given a copy of your papers and will speak with you before you see the judge. Attorney-client interviews are usually held in interview booths attached to the holding cell outside the courtroom (the attorney will call your name out shortly before your case is to be called in court). The attorney will tell you what crimes or violations you are being charged with, what, if any plea offer has been made by the District Attorney or judge, and will discuss with you what happened and what you wish to do. To prepare the application for your release without bail, the lawyer may ask you to provide more information concerning your “community ties.” The attorney may need to contact a friend or family member in order to verify the information, and may also want to have them appear for you at the arraignment, if possible. Once the interview is finished the attorney will notify the part that you are ready and you will be brought into the courtroom for your arraignment.

The arraignment is, in theory, the formal process by which you are informed of the charges against you and the rights you have as a defendant. In practice, this formal reading of the charges and rights is waived by defense counsel. The District Attorney will then give notice of any statements the People intend to use against you, as well an any identification of you by prosecution witnesses, and then give a short recitation of the NYPD’s version of the events that resulted in your arrest. This will generally be followed by a plea offer, which court personnel usually refer to as a “disposition offer.” If you are pleading “not guilty,” the court will then ask the District Attorney for a recommendation on whether you should be released on your own recognizance (“ROR’d”) or have bail set. Your attorney will then argue for “ROR” or lower bail, and inform the court if a friend or family member is in the audience to vouch for you. Unless you are taking a plea at the arraignment it is very unlikely that you will be asked to speak. Should you wish to say something or respond to something you have heard, it is advisable that you quietly tell the information to your attorney.

Be aware that arraignments are usually conducted at break-neck speed and the entire process will probably go by in a flash. But if something has transpired that you don’t understand or you think may result in an undesirable outcome, don’t hesitate to ask your attorney to stop and explain.

How do I find someone who is in jail?

“Prisoner” is the term used to describe people who are in custody after having been arraigned in court, while awaiting disposition of their case, and people who have been sentenced to a period of incarceration. To locate a person who has just been arrested but has not yet been arraigned, go to [When Someone You Know Is Arrested]

A. New York City Jails

If a judge sets bail at arraignment, or orders a person held without bail, the prisoner is transferred to a jail operated by the New York City Department of Correction. The Department has jails in almost every borough of the City. The Department operates an automated telephone system 24 hours a day that you can call to learn a prisoner’s location: 212-266-1500. The system functions in both English and Spanish. It is easier to locate a prisoner if you have his “book and case” number (NYC Department of Corrections ID number) or NYSID number (the “rap sheet” number or N.Y. ID number). This system also provides information on how to retrieve the property of a person who has been arrested and how to deposit money in a prisoner’s personal jail account.

On weekdays, between 8:30 and 4:30, you can call 212-487-7139 through 7148 to ask an employee of the Department of Correction about the status of a prisoner.

B. State Prisons

People who receive sentences longer than one year are transferred upstate to prisons operated by the New York State Department of Correctional Services. The Department of Correctional Services operates a website http://www.docs.state.ny.us that provides the location of every prisoner in the state system. After entering the website, click onto Inmate Locator. You can locate a prisoner by name, but this system is more accurate and quicker if you also have the Department Identification Number (State Correction’s ID number, e.g., 01-A-0000).

You can also call the Department of Correctional Services during normal business hours at 518-457-5000 to ask for a prisoner’s location. Again, it is easier to get this information if you provide the Department Identification Number.

How do I Visit a Prisoner in a City Jail?

A. How Many People Can Visit?

The New York City Department of Correction has an excellent website that provides useful information for families and attorneys about visiting prisoners housed in its facilities.

Generally, prisoners are permitted to see up to three visitors at the same time. However, the maximum number can vary depending on space and other conditions in each jail, such as space and the number of visitors at any given time. A prisoner is usually allowed up to three 60-minute visits during a week, each on separate days. There is a visitation schedule of dates and hours that is made known to the prisoners. Visits must occur at certain times on specified days. The schedule is given to prisoners, but friends and family can also obtain this information at the DOC website.

Children under 16 years must be accompanied by an adult 18 years or older with proper identification. A person 16 or 17 years old may visit without an adult but may not act as an adult escort of a child under 16 unless both the visitor and the prisoner are the child’s parents.

B. What Forms of ID are Required?

Every adult visitor and unaccompanied minor aged 16 and 17 must have one form of valid identification containing a clear photograph and signature. A valid identification card must be unexpired. Examples of valid identification documents include:

  • driver license with photo and signature (including out of state licenses);
  • alien photo I.D. cardpassport;
  • school identification card;
  • employment identification card;
  • food stamp card;
  • U.S. Armed Forces I.D. card;
  • New York State Department of Motor Vehicle Non-Driver License I.D.;

Other forms of identification containing the visitor’s photograph and signature may be judged acceptable at the discretion of the Department of Correction officers.

C. Prohibited Items

The following items are not permitted inside a City jail: radios, walkmans, beepers, cellular telephones, cameras, electronic equipment, recording devices, weapons, including firearms, ammunition, and knives, drugs, alcohol, beverages.

How do I Visit a New York State Prison?

Visiting days and times in the state system vary from prison to prison. Before visiting a prisoner in a state prison, check on the schedule for that facility. Visitors are supposed to be pre-approved and are placed on the prisoner’s “approved visitor list.” There is an exception to this rule for first time visitors with proper identification. Children of prisoners will be allowed to visit without written permission. Minors must be accompanied by an adult and must also have written permission from a parent or guardian if the accompanying adult is not a parent or guardian.

Proof of identity is required. Acceptable identification includes any picture ID, a document with the visitor’s signature on it, or birth or baptismal certificates. Contraband is prohibited, as is inappropriate attire. Medication must be declared when the visitor enters the facility. All persons entering a correctional facility are subject to search.

How can I travel to a State Prison?

The Department of Correctional Services operates a free bus service for family members. The service is available for State prisons. The prisoner must apply for family members to use this service by filling out a “Family Visitor Program Application” which is available from either the Chaplain or the Guidance office. The application takes 3 to 12 months to process. Information about the service can be obtained from the DOC Family Services Program 212-961-4052. In addition to the free service, a number of organizations operate buses for a fee: Prison Gap 800-734-3733, Flamboyant 718-325-6874, and B.U.V.S . 917-447-2310 (English); 646-234-4621 (Spanish).

More information about family visitation at prisons can be obtained by contacting the Osborne Association Family Resource Center at 800-344-3314 or visiting their website.

What is bail?

Bail is money that some criminal defendants are required to deposit to guarantee that they will return to court if released from jail while their cases are pending. The judge sets the amount, and the money is deposited with the clerk of the court. It is returned after the case is finished. Bail may be posted as “cash,” or through a bond. A bond is a legal contract that requires someone to pay money if a defendant fails to return to court. It is guaranteed by the assets of the person who posted it, such as real estate, savings, or valuable personal property. A “surety” bond is one in which another person or a bail bond company – the “obligor” – undertakes to ensure that a defendant returns to court, upon penalty of losing the bail amount if the defendant fails to do so. An “appearance” bond is one in which the defendant him or herself is the obligor. Most commonly, the court will direct that bail be posted in cash or as an insurance company bail bond. Often the bond amount will be higher than the cash alternative, because courts are aware that bond companies generally accept well less than 100% of the face value of the bond as security. Once cash bail or a bond is posted, the court has the authority to order a hearing (a “surety hearing”), to determine whether the bail money came from legal sources.

Although the law appears to require that the judge give at least two alternative ways of posting bail, a number of judges will set “cash only” bail. Unless a lawyer can persuade a reviewing court to change such an order, bail will then have to be posted in cash rather than as any type of bond.

How do I post bail?

Cash Bail

If both the person posting bail and the defendant are in court, cash bail can be posted in the courthouse, and the defendant can be released before being transferred to jail. This most commonly occurs at the initial arraignment. If you plan to post bail for a defendant following an arraignment or other court appearance, you should tell a court officer, so that the defendant will be held in the building for release. Bail posted in the courthouse must be paid in cash; the courthouse cashiers do not accept any form of check.

Bail can also be paid at any City jail, although defendants are usually released fastest if the bail is paid at the facility where they are being held. City jails will accept certain kinds of certified or government checks as well as cash, but there are restriction on the amount and type. You can find rules about posting bail on the N.Y.C. Department of Correction’s website. Alternatively, you can obtain information about posting bail, as well as information on locating defendants and jails, retrieving prisoners’ property, visiting hours and rules, and travel directions, by calling the Department of Correction, at 718. 546.0700. The addresses of City jails are listed below. (NOTE: At present, the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens Houses of Detention are closed.)

Bronx House of Detention: 653 River Avenue, Bronx, N.Y. 10451
Brooklyn House of Detention: 275 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, N.Y. 11201
Manhattan House of Detention: (the “Tombs”), 125 White Street, New York, N.Y. 10013
Queens House of Detention: 126-02 82nd Avenue, Queens, N.Y. 11415
Riker’s Island: 11-11 Hazen Street, East Elmhurst, N.Y. 11370

Bail Bond

If you are posting a bond, you will need to find a bail bondsman. My office can assist you in finding an honest, licensed bondsmen who will work with you to make the proper arrangements (212) 268-7777.

How do I get my bail money back?

If a defendant has made court appearances as required, cash bail should be returned at the end of the case. When the case is over, the judge should issue an order for the return of bail (“exonerating” the bail). The New York City Department of Finance will issue a check to the person who deposited the bail. If the case has ended in a conviction, 3 percent of the bail will be kept by the government. The Finance Department claims that it does this within 2 weeks of its receipt of the court’s order. In practice, it can take up to 6 or 7 weeks for bail to be returned after a case is over. If your bail has not been returned after 6 weeks, you can contact the Department of Finance at 212.669.2879 or 212.669.2880. You should have your bail receipt available when you call, so that you can provided the information they will need to find the case. The Department of Finance’s website, contains other useful information about getting a bail refund, assigning bail funds, changing the address on the bail receipt, and more.

What if my bail was forfeited?

If a defendant does not come to court when required to do so, the judge may order that bail be “forfeited,” or kept by the City. There is a procedure, called “remission of forfeiture,” which allows a person who posted bail to apply for it to be returned if it has been forfeited. Some people hire a lawyer to do this, but you can do it on your own if you cannot afford a lawyer. Keep in mind that there is a strict deadline for a “remission of forfeiture” application: you must apply within one year of the date that the court ordered the bail forfeited. If the bail was forfeited in Supreme Court (a felony case), the application must be made to the court that issued the forfeiture order. If it happened in Criminal Court (a misdemeanor case), the application is made to a Supreme Court judge in that county.

An application for “remission of bail” must be made in writing. If you are proceeding without a lawyer, you should ask the court clerk for instructions about how to proceed.

What do I do if my Jail Time Credit or Sentence Calculation is Wrong?

In most cases, the time spent in jail before a prisoner is sentenced should be credited toward the sentence that is imposed. However, prisoners often find that they have not been credited with all the time they have spent in jail, resulting in a later release date. The steps prisoners should take to have the error corrected vary, depending on whether they are located in a City jail or in State prison.

What if I have been mistreated by the police?

IMPORTANT: If you are a defendant in a criminal case, you should consult with a criminal defense attorney any action you might consider taking in connection with your mistreatment by the police.

There are several government agencies that review complaints against the N.Y.P.D. Anyone can file a complaint by contacting the Civilian Complaint Review Board, 40 Rector St. 2d fl. New York NY 10006 (212) 442-8833. C.C.R.B. complaints may be filed in person, by telephone, or by mail. Complaint forms are available at all New York City police stations.

The C.C.R.B. has authority to investigate and to recommend departmental action against officers engaging in excessive force, abuse of authority, discourtesy, and offensive language.

Complaints about stealing, bribe receiving or “moonlighting” by police should be referred to the N.Y.P.D. Internal Affairs Division by calling 1-800-PRIDE–PD , or (212) 741-8401. Complaints can also be made in person at I.A.D., 315 Hudson Street 3d fl 10013.

Recurrent discriminatory practices at the precinct level should be referred to the State Attorney General, Civil Rights Bureau at (212) 416-8000 or by writing to:

New York State Attorney General
Civil Rights Bureau
120 Broadway, 25th floor
New York NY 10271.

IMPORTANT: If you are a criminal defendant, or if you, a friend or a relative has been seriously injured by the police, you should consult an attorney before making a complaint to any government agency. Your statement to the government agency may be used against you in your criminal case, or may hurt your chances of winning a civil case. We strongly advise against initiating a civilian complaint on your own while a criminal or civil action is pending. The officer you are complaining about will be shown your C.C.R.B. complaint against him before your case is presented in court.

Both the C.C.R.B. and the I.A.D. will accept a complaint that is filed by your lawyer, and postpone taking your statement until your case is over.

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