If you've been arrested and are being held in a New York City jail awaiting your initial hearing, you may be wondering what to expect from the criminal process. You may be eager to secure bail so that you'll be able to return to your home (and job) until your trial has concluded or you've accepted a plea deal. However, many individuals have found themselves incarcerated for longer than the maximum sentence for the underlying crime, simply due to their financial inability to post bail before trial. Fortunately, recent changes in New York City bail laws could help ensure the quick release of individuals charged with minor or non-violent offenses. Read on to learn more about what you might be able to expect from the criminal process and what you can do to speed up your release.
What happens when you're arrested for a crime in NYC?
After you're arrested, you're generally transported to the nearest jail for processing. You'll have your fingerprints and mug shots taken and will be issued a jail uniform. Within the next few days, you'll be taken to court for an arraignment or initial hearing. At this hearing, you'll be informed of the pending charges against you and asked whether you'd like to plead guilty or not guilty. (Although you may later accept a plea bargain offered by the prosecuting attorney, most defendants plead not guilty at the initial hearing.) If you don't have an attorney (or can't afford one), the state may appoint someone to represent you at no charge.
After this, the judge will generally either pronounce a bail amount or order you to be released on your own recognizance. If bail is issued, this means that you or someone acting on your behalf will need to provide a payment of cash to the jail to secure your release. If you don't have enough cash to pay this bail amount, you'll need to enlist the services of a bail bondsman, who will put up the full amount of your bail in exchange for a fee.
How much will you be required to pay?
Often, first-time or minor offenders will simply be released on their own recognizance. This means that if these defendants fail to appear at subsequent court proceedings, an arrest warrant may be issued. However, judges do have the right to set your bail at up to $5,000 for a misdemeanor charge, or higher for a felony charge. This amount can be difficult for most to pay, and for some, even coming up with the small percentage needed to hire a bail bondsman can be onerous.
What could recent changes in New York laws governing bail mean for your case?
When an individual is financially unable to post his or her bond, he or she will remain in jail until trial. This time will be credited toward any eventual jail sentence received, but in many cases, a defendant who pleads guilty or is convicted of a misdemeanor may not even be sentenced to jail. This often means that those charged with minor offenses spend more time in jail awaiting trial than they would have ever spent in jail after sentencing.
However, in a recent effort to reduce the jail and prison overcrowding issues in New York City, as well as to reduce the impact of a potentially lengthy jail stay on non-violent offenders, the NYC district attorney has unveiled a plan to permit judges to waive the cash bail requirement for certain low-level offenders. This means that instead of making a cash payment to the court to be released from jail, the individual will instead be sentenced to home detention, probation, or another type of regular monitoring. It's believed that this practice won't have any impact on the number of defendants who choose to forfeit bail and abscond before trial, while having a significant impact on the numbers (and mental states) of those who spend months in jail awaiting trial for a misdemeanor or minor felony.
These new provisions don't take effect until early 2016, so they may not have a direct impact on a current case. Despite this, you will likely be able to argue that the rationale behind the creation of this rule is solid and requires your release (with conditions), rather than subjecting you to the risks and stresses of another several months in jail. For more info, contact an attorney.