What is pre-arraignment?
Where is an arrested person taken?
Normally, to the Police Precinct in which the arrest occurred.
How long is he kept at the Precinct house?
Typically, 4-to-6 hours, longer if there is a complex investigation, interrogation by Detectives and the District Attorney, or line-ups being arranged.
Can I see or talk to him at the Precinct?
An arrested person is entitled to make three telephone calls. There may also be a pay phone in the holding cell at the precinct which an arrested person may use while awaiting transport to Central Booking. Although permitted, the Police are not required to let you see him, if you go to the station (unless he's a juvenile under age 16). Sometimes, if you approach the Police very politely, an individual Officer or Detective might allow this.
Where does he go when he leaves the Precinct?
A few arrested persons, who have good identification and are arrested on minor charges, will be fingerprinted and released from the Precinct with a "Desk Appearance Ticket" (DAT), which is a summons to appear in court on a future date. But most arrested persons are taken to Central Booking, located in the basement of the Criminal Court Building in the borough in which they were arrested. There they wait until they appear before a judge for "arraignment". During this time, the person's fingerprints are being checked, he is being interviewed by the Criminal Justice Agency to determine his ties to the community, and the District Attorney is preparing the formal complaint. You cannot see or speak to him during this time, but he may be able to call you on the pay phones in the holding cells.
How long does it take before the person sees the Judge?
Thanks to successful litigation by The Legal Aid Society, the law requires that an arrested person be brought before a Judge within 24 hours of his arrest, and due to our persistent vigilance, people arrested in NYC are usually arraigned within 18 to 24 hours. However, if the system is "backed up" by an excessive number of arrests, or if there is a problem with the computer which generates fingerprints, the person may have to wait longer than 24 hours.
How can I find out when the person will see the Judge?
See Locating Your Loved One, above.
What can I do to help my loved one?
Other than a well trained, dedicated attorney, the most valuable thing to a person who has been arrested is someone on the outside who can go to bat for him. The easier it is for the police, the Criminal Justice Agency, and ultimately his lawyer to ascertain and verify information about someone who has been arrested, the quicker and better will be the arraignment. It is extremely important that there be someone reliable available to answer the phone at the number the person arrested is most likely to give as a contact. If you know that a person has been arrested, you may have a tough time deciding whether to stay home and wait for a call from the attorney or try to get to the court before the arraignment takes place. If the arraignment is scheduled during regular business hours, you may be able to call the Legal Aid office in that county and have them tell the lawyers in the arraignment part that you are on your way.
Who will represent my loved one in court?
Everyone who is arrested is entitled to a lawyer at the time of arraignment. If you can afford to hire a private lawyer to represent your loved one, you should. The Bar of The City of New York provides a referral service. If you can't afford one, or haven't had time to hire one, the Court will assign one of the lawyers staffing that arraignment shift to represent your loved one. Who is assigned depends on the day and time the person happens to see the judge. The majority of arrested persons are arraigned by lawyers from The Legal Aid Society. The rest are assigned to various alternate Defender Services or to a court-appointed private lawyer, called an "18-b lawyer" The lawyer is assigned once all pre-arraignment processing has been completed, and the arrestee has been brought into a holding cell directly behind the arraignment courtroom. Interview booths are provided so that the attorneys can speak to each client privately before the arraignment.
Once in the courtroom, who can help me?
The defense attorneys assigned in the courtroom will generally try to be helpful, but will also be very busy. There will usually be a clerk assisting them who may be able to provide some information. A Legal Aid supervisor will be available during those shifts staffed by Legal Aid and you should let that person know that you are there. Once a lawyer has been assigned to represent your loved one, he or she will be anxious to speak with you to verify certain information, determine whether the client can post bail, and maybe most importantly just to demonstrate to the judge that the accused before him is also the subject of concern from family and friends. When you have determined that you are in the right courtroom, let one of the defense attorneys, their supervisor, or their clerk know that you are there and give them the name of your loved one on a piece of paper.
Will someone speak to me, if I just wait for the case to be called?
Probably. But why take a chance? The defense attorney, after speaking to the arrested person, will often ask if there are any friends or relatives in the courtroom. As stated above, this is very important in helping the attorney make an application for release or reasonable bail by providing information about the person's background and family ties. The attorney should be eager to hear any information you might have that would be helpful to his client.
Will my loved one be released?
This is up to the Judge. If not consenting to release on recognizance ('ROR'), the prosecutor will ask that bail be set, depending on the nature of the charges, on whether your loved one has a criminal record, or a record of failing to appear in court ("warranting") in the past, and on his ties to the community. If it's a close call, your presence in court can be very helpful in reassuring the Judge that your loved one will return to court whenever required.
What if the judge sets bail?
Bail is normally in the form of "cash bail" or "insurance company bond." Cash bail, in the full amount, may be posted with the court clerk if you have it with you. If you get it later, when your loved one has already been taken to jail, the bail can be posted either at any jail facility. If you don't have the cash, but have assets you can pledge as collateral, you can see a bail bondsman about an "insurance company bond". For a more detailed explanation about bail, see, What is bail?