Law Offices of Steven A. Hoffner



An experienced New York City criminal defense attorney, Mr. Hoffner has been handling arraignments in New York for almost twenty years. The following is a thumbnail sketch of the arrest-to-arraignment process:   

If your loved one has just been arrested,  there is only one thing on your mind: GETTING HIM (OR HER) OUT!!!  

Pre-Arraignment Stage: Initial Booking

First, find out at what precinct he is being held. Then, get the name of the arresting officer so that you can get the arrest number. You will need this number when you or an attorney call the courts to determine when your loved one is likely to see the judge at arraignments.

The arrest to arraignment process usually lasts about twenty four hours, although private attorneys can typically shorten the wait by a couple of hours or more. The reasons for the long delay are numerous. The arrested individual first needs to be booked at the precinct, at which time a mug shot and fingerprints are taken. Additionally, the arresting officer fills out paperwork related for use at arraignment.

The time frame of the initial booking process can vary tremendously based upon the arresting officer’s state of mind. If he’s looking for overtime, the arraignment process will slow to a crawl. If he’s got a date that night, it’s amazing how much quicker things move along.  

The fingerprints have to be transmitted to Albany where a rap sheet is generated. That usually takes at least four to six hours. If the computers are down, then there’s nothing to do but wait. Meanwhile, the arresting officer will meet with an Assistant District Attorney at which time it will be determined what criminal charges will be filed against the at arraignment.

Arraignment Court

After about six to eight hours of sitting in a holding cell at the precinct, the arrested individual is taken to Central Booking, which adjoins the arraignment court.  But, depending on the number of people in the system, the time when the defendant is arraigned by the judge may still be far off. Sitting in Central Booking tends to be the worst part of the arraignment process, as it typically involves overcrowded cells, extreme heat or cold depending on the season, warm baloney sandwiches, and forced interaction with unsavory characters and unsympathetic jailers.

After about twenty hours, a lawyer will be assigned to represent the accused at arraignment (or less if a private attorney is retained), and it is almost time to see the judge. Finally, the accused can learn what the exact charges are against him, as well as what the chances are that he will be released or what bail may be set.

It is crucial at this stage to get an experienced attorney as the initial handling of the case can have a dramatic impact on its ultimate resolution, as well as the liberty status of the accused during the pendency of the case.

There are certain things that an attorney can do at the very beginning of the case which are essential.

First, the attorney can (and should) call the precinct and inform the police that the accused is represented by counsel and that all questioning of the person must cease.     

Second, the attorney can speak to the arresting officer and try to learn as much about the charges as possible so that the family can be advised of the probable charges right away.

Also, the attorney can try to contact the Assistant District Attorney and depending on the situation, may be able to persuade the prosecutor to charge a lesser crime or none at all.

Additionally, the defense lawyer can sometimes convince the prosecutor not to ask for bail at arraignment.

Final Thoughts

There is no substitute for a competent attorney when it comes to seeing the judge. A lawyer who is respected by the judge will be able to get a defendant released without bail or get a lower bail than lawyers with less arraignment experience.

The experienced lawyer will point out the weaknesses in the prosecution’s case as well as the defendant’s family ties and commitment to coming to court to fight the charges.

The criminal case may just be beginning, but a defendant represented by able counsel will rest assured that he is not in the fight alone.

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