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Arrest Process and Arraignment in New York City During the COVID-19 and Coronavirus Pandemic

Whether or not your criminal defense attorney is ready to assist you shortly after your arrest, finding yourself in handcuffs and waiting to see a judge at your arraignment can be an extremely traumatic, life-altering experience in the best of times. Add the complexity and uncertainty that comes with COVID-19 – courts and prosecutors’ offices stripped down to the bare essentials in terms of staff, judges, clerks and general availability – your fears are likely ratcheted up. Even more, concerns that you might be at a higher risk of contracting the Coronavirus in a holding cell or a jail such as Rikers Island, and you are left with a potent combination that can leave even the most stalwart individual fearful and confused. Simply, with all that is happening with the criminal justice system in New York City, if you do find yourself under arrest for a felony or misdemeanor during these times you and your family members need to be prepared.

The Initial Arrest: From Handcuffs to Central Booking

Generally speaking, law enforcement is as much in force as ever at the present time. That being said, many police officers are being called away from their normal duties to make visits to grocery stores, parks, or other areas to enforce the various Executive Orders and public health directives. Police are making arrests or issuing summonses in connection with these kinds of issues and offenses relating to Coronavirus Crimes but they also continue to make “collars” for Domestic Violence crimes and other Penal Law offenses.

The initial arrest process has remained largely unchanged during this time, other than the police perhaps taking some added precaution in physically dealing with people who are in custody, such as using gloves and face-masks while transporting prisoners to and from a precinct, and doing all of the initial arrest processing, including fingerprinting. Once a person has been processed, and they are ready to be taking to Central Booking in Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens or Brooklyn as the case may be, they will be transported there as normal.

Central Booking to Arraignment: A Drastic Change

From arrival at Central Booking, the process has significantly changed under the current COVID-19 pandemic. Looking at Manhattan, for example, which is indicative of how NYC is handling the situation, sheds light on the new and temporary procedures.

At your arraignment, your first appearance in front of a judge, you will notice how relatively quiet it is. There will likely be some staff physically in the court room, such as a court clerk handling paperwork, court officers assisting, and NYPD officers dealing with matters on their end, but not the other key players. Why? Arraignments are now being done “virtually,” meaning that the judge, prosecutor from the DA’s office, and even your defense lawyer, are all in remote locations.

There is typically a large flat-screen television on which all the parties appear in a video conference using the Skype for business application. Prior to the arraignment, your counsel will be able to meet with you via video conference utilizing a computer and video setup that is in the holding cells of the courthouse that will preserve your privacy and attorney-client privilege. Once you have had a chance to see and speak with your attorney, you are taken to a different computer equipped with the same video conferencing application for the arraignment. The arraignment then proceeds with the judge and prosecutor being added to the video conference from remote locations. Decisions regarding bail or your release are made as normal, although some judges may be more inclined to release a person under these circumstances than they may have been otherwise for cases that qualify for cash bail. If the judge orders you released, you will be leave from the courthouse as normal.

Your Case, Your Defense, Your Future

The entire process can lead to increased wait times for arraignments, and for your release, especially if an attorney you hire is unfamiliar or ill-equipped to handle the various technological challenges that these new processes pose. Having a qualified attorney who is also experienced in handling these new procedures and using the required technology is unequivocally crucial. More importantly, while the Coronavirus will eventually pass, a criminal record lasts forever. When so much is on the line, there is no better defense than the advocacy, knowledge and experience of Crotty Saland PC’s criminal attorneys and former Manhattan prosecutors.

Call the New York criminal defense attorneys and former Manhattan prosecutors at (212) 312-7129 or contact us online today.

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