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How Does The New York City Criminal Court Work?

The Criminal Court of New York City is a local court of criminal jurisdiction in the New York Unified Court System. Established in 1953, the court operates as a single unit across eight locations in New York City. The Criminal Court judges are vested with the power to handle misdemeanor offenses, minor infractions, and also conduct arraignment and preliminary hearings in felony crimes. Generally, judges of the New York City Criminal Court adjudicate crimes in which a fine and up to one-year jail term is the associated penalties.

The Criminal court is divided into various specialized parts, each serving specific functions. They include the Arraignment Part, All-purpose Part, Felony Waiver Part, Trial Part, Problem-solving court, and Summons Court.

As the name implies, felony and misdemeanor arraignment hearings are handled by the arraignment part of the Criminal Court.

The All-purpose part handles motion hearings including plea bargain negotiations occurring before a case is in the “trial-ready posture”. This part may also conduct bench trials, pretrial hearings, and felony hearings, depending on caseloads.

The felony waiver part serves as an interim part where arraigned cases await grand jury actions. Judges in this part designated Acting Supreme Court Justices, also hear motions, extraditions matters, and bail applications.

The trial part hears most trials in the Criminal Court, although some trials are handled by the all-purpose part.

The New York court system has a number of courts designated as “problem-solving courts.” One of the courts is the Domestic Violence (DV) Court, established as part of the Criminal Court of the New York City. DV court handles domestic-related crimes, thereby improving the administration of justice involving this category of crimes. The DV courts in Bronx, Queens, and Manhattan are operated as complexes including distinct all-purpose parts and trial parts solely dedicated for domestic violence/abuse crimes. In Richmond, DV cases are handled by the regular all-purpose part.

The Summons Court (part) hears lesser offenses brought to court by summonses issued by local law enforcement agencies. Similarly, defendants may waive their rights to a bench trial by a judge and have a judicial hearing officer handle their cases instead. Appointed by the Chief Administrator, judicial hearing officers enforce compliance in domestic violence cases. In the Supreme Court, they monitor defendants involved in substance abuse, recommend findings of law and fact to presiding judges, and conduct pretrial suppression hearings.

The criminal court can only hold arraignment and preliminary hearings for felony offenses. Such offenses must be transferred to a court with general criminal jurisdiction—the Supreme Court. The court does not hear traffic-related violations. In New York City, non-moving violations are handled by the Parking Violations Bureau of the NYC Department of Finance. On the other hand, moving violations are charged by the Traffic Violations Bureau of the State Department of Motor Vehicles.

The law and procedure guiding the criminal prosecution process of the New York City Criminal Court are the New York Criminal Procedure Law (CPL). Following an arrest by local law enforcement officers, the arrestee may either be granted bail or for arraignment. In some instances, the person may be released after receiving an appearance ticket and then released to appear for arraignment in the future at the New York City Criminal Court. During the arraignment hearing, the sitting judge informs the accused of the alleged charges against them and provides legal aid to them, if they cannot afford a paid attorney. The accused may then submit a plea, accept a plea bargain, or plead not guilty. The time from arrest to arraignment is typically 24 hours.

After the arraignment, the accused may be sent back to jail or released on bail or on their own recognizance. In practice, the bail amount depends on the severity of the charges rather than the risk of failure to appear in court. Felony offenses are evaluated by a grand jury to determine if sufficient evidence exists to pursue the case. If the grand jury votes an indictment, the case is then transferred to the Supreme Court. For the most part, the prosecutor files a Superior Court Information (SCI) whenever a felony defendant waives their right to grand jury actions. Plea bargain negotiations are under the purview of the All-Purpose Part of the Criminal Court. The Trial part conducts pretrial hearings after which the case is considered ready for trial. Generally speaking, only persons charged with severe crimes, particularly those requiring more than six months jail time, are entitled to jury trial. Crimes carrying less than six months incarceration are handled by single judges in bench trial formats. Defendants in the Summons Court may give up their right to trial by a judge and have a judicial hearing officer hold the trial instead. Appeals from the Criminal Court are directed to the Appellate Terms of the New York Supreme Court.

The Office of the Criminal Court Administrator, with the help of Supervising Judges and the Chief Clerk, manages the affairs of the criminal court. These include caseload, assignment sheets, personnel, and budget administration.

Judges of the New York City Criminal Court are appointed by the Mayor of New York City upon recommendation from the Mayor’s Advisory Committee on the Judiciary. The Mayor’s advisory committee is made up of nineteen members, all appointed with the Mayor’s approval. The Mayor, Mayor’s, the Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals, the Presiding Justices of the Appellate Divisions of the Supreme Court for the First and Second Departments, and the deans of the law schools in New York City all have nomination quotas.

The Committee on the Judiciary of the New York City Bar Association as well as the applicable county bar association is responsible for investigating and evaluating the qualifications of judicial nominees in New York City.

Criminal Court Judges serve ten year terms after which re-appointment may take place. More often than not, these judges are transferred from one court to another by the Chief Court Administrator. After two years, they may be designated to hear felony cases as Acting Supreme Court Justice.

Online access to New York City criminal court records is enabled by the Online Direct Access to Criminal History Records Website. Each search requires the name and date of birth of the criminal convict and a search fee of $95, payable by credit or debit card.

To access criminal court records from the New York City Criminal Court in person, querying parties are required to visit the courthouse during normal business hours. Make sure to bring along the case number, case title, or any other relevant information necessary to find the record of interest. Also note that these records are not free of charge. The clerk is allowed to charge a fee for searching effort as well as for photocopying searched records. Even then, visitors may freely access public criminal records using the computer terminal available in the courthouse. All additional queries should be directed to the court. Below are the addresses and contact details of all Criminal Courts in New York City:

Midtown Community Court

314 West 54th Street

Midtown Community Court

New York, NY 10019

(646) 264–1320


New York City Criminal Court, Bronx County Branch

215 East 161st Street

Bronx Criminal Court

Bronx, NY 10451

(718) 618–2460

New York City Criminal Court, Bronx County Branch

265 East 161st Street

Bronx Criminal Court

Bronx, NY 10451

(718) 618–2460

New York City Criminal Court, Citywide Summons Part

1 Centre Street

16th Floor

New York, NY 10007–1602

(646) 386–4937

New York City Criminal Court, Human Resources

100 Centre Street

New York, NY 10013

(646) 386–4725

New York City Criminal Court, Kings County

88–94 Visitation Place

Red Hook Community Justice Center

Brooklyn, NY 11231

(718) 923–8271

New York City Criminal Court, Kings County Branch

120 Schermerhorn Street

Brooklyn, NY 11201

(347) 404–9400

New York City Criminal Court, Kings County Branch

320 Jay Street

Kings County Supreme Court

Brooklyn, NY 11201

(646) 386–4600

New York City Criminal Court, New York County Branch

100 Centre Street

New York, NY 10013

(646) 386–4520

New York City Criminal Court, Queens County Branch

125–01 Queens Blvd.

Queens Criminal Courthouse

Kew Gardens, NY 11415

(718) 298–0786

New York City Criminal Court, Richmond County Branch

26 Central Avenue

Staten Island, NY 10301

(718) 390–8742

New York City Criminal Court, Treatment Court Offices

60 Lafayette Street

Third 3A6

New York, NY 10013

(646) 386–4626

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