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What Do You Do if You Are On Trial For a Crime in New York

A defendant on trial in the state of New York is expected to challenge an indictment by hiring the services of a legal counsel. Those that are financially incapable of doing this are required to notify the judge during arraignment to get a public defender assigned to them. According to Section 260.10 of the Criminal Procedure Law (CPL), all criminal trials in the state 'must be a jury trial.' Therefore, a defendant's conduct before the selected jurors should be orderly. Contrary to this, the accused person will be restricted from appearing at the trial. Plea offers are open to defendants from the time of arraignment through pre-trial.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.

Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

What Percentage of Criminal Cases go to Trial in New York?

According to the 2019 court statistics report published by the state's Unified Court System, 3,009,470 criminal charges were filed in all courts within the state. 882,268 depositions as well as 854,056 filings were recorded in city and district courts. In general, the report showed that the probability of criminal charges going to trial is comparatively low. For instance, in felonies cases alone, the state recorded 41,795 court dispositions and 36,033 filings. 84% (35,068) of these cases were settled through plea offers. 3% (1,208 cases) was settled via jury trial, less than 1% was settled via bench trial, and 8% was dismissed.

When does a Criminal Defendant Have the Right to a Trial?

Generally, all accused persons have a right to a fair trial to prove their innocence as contained in Article 1 of the NYS Constitution. However, the type of trial available to the defendant depends on the prosecutor's evidence and the type of offense.

A suspect charged with a serious crime has a right to a jury trial consisting of 6 or 12 jurors. Misdemeanors (Class A) and felonies, with a possible jail sentence of more than six months, fall under the category of 'serious' crimes. Infractions and class B misdemeanors are regarded as lesser crimes. As such, defendants accused of these crimes only have a right to a bench trial. In a bench trial, a judge hears the evidence and decides whether the defendant is guilty or not.

Also, defendants have a right to prove their innocence before a jury or court when the prosecutor's evidence is insufficient. The purpose of a trial is to get a fair judgment from the jury after a thorough evaluation of all evidence presented. Therefore, if the prosecutor's plea offer is unacceptable and unfair, the accused person opts for a trial.

What are the Stages of a Criminal Trial in New York?

According to Section 260.30, the stages of a criminal trial in New York are as follows:

  • Selection and swearing-in of the jury
  • Presentation of preliminary guidelines to the jury
  • Opening address to the jury; first from the prosecutor, then the defendant (optional)
  • Presentation of evidence from the prosecutor in support of the criminal accusations
  • Presentation of evidence from the defendant (optional)
  • Presentation of rebuttal evidence from either side. Further rebuttals will be decided by the court
  • Concluding speech from the defendant to the jury
  • Concluding speech from the prosecutor to the jury
  • Court's charge to the jury
  • Jury's deliberation and final verdict

How Long Does it take For a Case to Go to Trial in New York?

The criminal prosecution process begins with an arrest. Afterward, the defendant will be arraigned in court within 24 hours. After the arraignment, the case must be tried in:

  • 30 days if the crime is an infraction
  • 60 days if the crime is a class B misdemeanor
  • 90 days if the crime is a class A misdemeanor
  • six months if the crime is a felony

What Happens When a Court Case Goes to Trial in New York?

In a trial, the prosecutor (or the party that started the case) is required to prove their evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. Hence, the trial begins with an opening statement from the prosecutor, represented by a district attorney. After the opening statements from both sides, the prosecutor provides evidence and witnesses to prove the case while the defendant may choose to do the same.

Each party gets a rebuttal for questioning of evidence and witness provided by the other side. The judge can also ask questions and allow counter-rebuttals when necessary. Closing statements from either side is optional. Afterward, the judge reads the jury charge, informing the jury of the related laws necessary for giving a verdict to the case.

The jury is left to deliberate and come out with a verdict. The verdict is modified by the judge and ends as the final judgment or sentence. Once the sentence is pronounced, the loser has a right to appeal while the winner can take steps to enforce the judgement.

Can you be Put on Trial Twice for the Same Crime in New York?

No. As contained in the CPL Section 40, a defendant can't be tried for the same crime twice in the state of New York. However, an exception to the rule occurs when the same offense is prosecuted in another state. Also, federal offenses may be tried differently at a state and federal court.

How Do I Lookup a Criminal Court Case in New York?

In line with the Freedom of Information Law in New York, residents have fundamental rights to all public records. Clerk of courts or county clerks are tasked by Section 255 of the Judicial Law to provide criminal court case information to interested parties. Generally, court case files are indexed in the court where the cases were filed.

It is best to submit a request application to the particular court clerk holding the case file. For instance, New York County provides online, mail, and in-person methods for requesting criminal case transcripts, motions, dockets, and other records. The courthouse address is:

County Clerk of New York
New York County Courthouse
60 Centre Street, Room 161
New York, NY 10007
Phone: (646) 386-5955

All other county clerks in New York provide access to court case files. Third party party sites like also provide easy access to criminal court files that are not easily obtained from authorized agencies.

How to Access Electronic Court Records in New York

The New York Unified Court System provides access to electronic court records in the state. Using the eCourt system, interested persons can gain free access to pending, ongoing, and concluded records from state or local courts. Online searches are completed by using the case number, defendant's name, attorney's name, or judge's name. Note that the eCourt System features only publicly available case information. Sensitive, personal, and sealed information cannot be located through this means.

How Do I Remove Public Court Records in New York?

In New York, there is no law supporting the complete removal of court records. However, CPL Section 160.50 permits a defendant to seal a record provided there is no conviction. Also, non-criminal violations can be hidden from public view. Felonies and misdemeanors may be sealed if the sentence and drug-treatment program is completed. According to Section 160.59, records are automatically hidden from the public if the offender is crime-free for 10 years. Also, the option is available for offenders with less than two serious crimes. To seal a criminal offense, eligible persons should take the following steps:

  • Complete and submit a certificate of disposition for sealing application to the court.
  • Complete the sealing application and serve it together with the certificate of disposition at any district attorney's office via mail or in person.
  • File the original copies of all documents listed above to the court where the most serious crime was convicted.
  • Confirm that the record has been sealed by requesting for a seal verification. The request form should be filled and submitted to:

NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services
Correspondence Unit – 5th Floor
80 South Swan Street
Albany, NY 12210

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