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Criminal Justice Process

The NYPD has prepared important information on the criminal justice process in New York City so you can become more familiar with many procedures. Also included below is information about the different agencies that you may come in contact with throughout the duration of your case.

Words in blue are terms that can be found in the Glossary section.

All crime victims have the right to participate in the criminal justice proceedings of their case.


New York City Police Department

  1. Report
    1. The victim of a crime files a complaint report with the police.
      1. Depending on where the crime occurred, you may report the crime to agencies such as the MTA police, State Police, or Port Authority Police. Otherwise, contact your local precinct as soon as possible.
      2. Locate the nearest precinct to you.
    For any crime in progress, please call 911 immediately. If possible, provide an exact location and details of the crime to the dispatcher.
  2. Investigation
    1. Once the NYPD has received the complaint report, an investigation may be conducted to gather more information.
    2. Investigations may include, but are not limited to:
      1. Looking for a suspect
      2. Collecting evidence
      3. Interviewing witnesses
    If you have any questions about the status of your case, please call the precinct that took your complaint report.
  3. Arrest
    1. An arrest will be made if a suspect is identified and there is probable cause to believe the suspect committed the crime. When a suspect is arrested he/she may be searched, transported to the precinct, and in some cases fingerprinted, and photographed at the precinct.
    2. For certain offenses, the suspect might not be brought directly to court from the precinct. If eligible, a Desk Appearance Ticket (D.A.T.) may be issued, requiring the individual to appear in court at a future date to answer the charges against him/her. Eligibility will generally be dependent, in part, by having photographic identification.

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The New York City Court System

New York City has five (5) major courts. Each court has different jurisdictions pertaining to particular legal matters that they handle.

  1. Civil Court of the City of New York
  2. Criminal Court of the City of New York
  3. Supreme Court of the State of New York
  4. Family Court of the State of New York
  5. Surrogate's Court of New York, Bronx, Queens, Kings, and Richmond Counties.

The focus of this section will be on the Criminal Court of the City of New York, and the Supreme Court of the State of New York (Criminal Part).

Learn more about the New York State Unified Court System.

  1. District Attorney's Office
    1. After an officer makes an arrest, he/she will present information about the case to the District Attorney's Office. The District Attorney's Office will then determine whether to file charges against the suspect.
    2. If the District Attorney's Office decides not to file charges, the suspect will be released.
    If you have any questions regarding a case where you were a victim, once it has been referred by the police to the District Attorney's office, please contact the Assistant District Attorney (A.D.A.) assigned to your case.

  2. Filing Charges
    1. If the District Attorney's Office decides to file charges against a suspect, the charges will be presented in front of a judge for an arraignment.
    2. Please note that although the District Attorney's Office will handle your case, they prosecute on behalf of the State of New York in Criminal Court or Supreme Court, not on behalf of individuals.

  3. Defense Attorney
    1. All suspects being charged with a crime have the right to be represented by an attorney.
    2. The suspect can hire an attorney, or if he/she cannot afford an attorney, the court will provide one.
    3. Suspects' Defense Attorneys sometimes contact victims about their case. [You] do not have to talk to defense attorneys or their investigators and [you] are encouraged to contact the prosecutor if [you] have any concerns about such requests.

  4. Arraignment After the Arrest
    1. After the arrest, the defendant is taken before a judge of the Criminal Court of the City of New York for an arraignment.
    2. At this time, the defendant can plead guilty or not guilty to the charges against him/her. If a defendant pleads guilty, the court may impose a sentence immediately, or set a future court date for that purpose.
    3. Upon or after arraignment, the court may issue an Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal (ACD), which postpones or "adjourns" the case to a later date. Obtaining an ACD does not mean the defendant didn't commit the crime. There are usually conditions placed upon the ACD which the defendant must comply with prior to the case being dismissed, such as not engaging in any illegal activity or participating in a relevant program. An ACD does not require the defendant to admit his or her guilt. However, if the defendant does not meet all of the conditions put in place by the court, the case goes back before the judge to be adjudicated.
    4. An Order of Protection may be issued at this time at the request of the Assistant District Attorney.

  5. Bail
    1. Depending on a number of factors, a defendant may go to jail, may receive bail or may be released on his/her own recognizance while the case is pending.
      1. If a defendant cannot post bail, he/she will be detained in jail.
      2. Defendants who can post bail or are released on their own recognizance will be given a date to appear in court. Failure to appear at this court date will result in a bench warrant for the defendant's arrest.

  6. Grand Jury (Felony cases only)
    1. The Assistant District Attorney (A.D.A.) presents the evidence against the defendant to the grand jury. The defendant may also testify before the grand jury.
    2. The grand jury then decides if there is enough evidence to bring the case to trial.
      1. If the grand jury decides there is enough evidence, an indictment is issued.

  7. Arraignment on Indictment (Felony cases only)
    1. After the indictment, the defendant is arraigned in the New York City Criminal Court.
    2. At this time, with the assistance of a defense attorney, the defendant may enter a plea of guilty or not guilty to the charges against him/her.
    3. The judge has the right to accept or reject a guilty plea that is submitted by the defendant.
      1. If the guilty plea is accepted, there is no trial and the defendant will be sentenced. Sentencing can be right away or set for a later court date.
    4. If the defendant pleads not guilty, a date will be set for a trial.
    5. At this time, a temporary Order of Protection may be issued at the request of the Assistant District Attorney, which will be in place while the case is pending. And a final order will be issued upon a plea or conviction.

  8. Calendar Part
    1. At this stage various motions, pleas and court hearings occur before going to trial.
      1. During any point of this stage, a plea agreement may be negotiated between the defendant, the judge and the Assistant District Attorney (A.D.A.). The defendant may enter a guilty plea, or the case may be dismissed for a variety of reasons.
    2. An Order of Protection may be issued at this time at the request of the Assistant District Attorney.

  9. Trial
    1. Trials can be conducted for violations, misdemeanors or felonies.
    2. The Assistant District Attorney (Prosecution) will present evidence in order for the judge or jury to decide if the defendant is guilty or not. The defendant also has an opportunity to present evidence.
    3. The trial will result in a conviction or an acquittal of the charges against the defendant.
      1. If convicted (found guilty), the defendant will be sentenced. The judge has discretion with regard to sentencing or application of the law.
      2. If acquitted (found not guilty), the defendant will be released, unless other charges are pending, or defendant is serving another sentence.

  10. Sentencing
    1. Sentencing occurs after a defendant has been found guilty by a jury or judge, or pleads guilty to the charges.
    2. The sentence depends on a variety of factors, including, but not limited to, the severity and type of crime committed and prior criminal history.
      1. A judge may sentence a defendant to a term of imprisonment, a term of probation, a conditional discharge, an unconditional discharge, or impose a fine.
      2. After sentencing, the defendant can appeal the conviction or the sentence.

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New York City Department of Correction

Incarceration in a City Jail
The New York City Department of Correction (DOC) provides custody for people convicted of misdemeanor offenses (sentenced to one year or less of jail time), or individuals awaiting a court date or trial who were not granted release or were not able to make bail.

Learn more about the New York City Department of Correction.

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New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision

  1. Incarceration in a State Prison
    The New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) is responsible for the care and custody of people convicted of a felony and sentenced to state prison; as well as those offenders who are under community supervision (most commonly, parole).

  2. Parole
    1. Parole is the early release of a prisoner from prison who was convicted of a felony, before the entire sentence is served; or who has post-release supervision as a condition of his/her sentence.
    2. Individuals who are granted parole must go to a Pre-Parole Board interview with a parole officer.
    3. After the interview, a Parole Board Appearance will be scheduled.
      1. During this appearance, the Parole Board examines the individual's eligibility, disciplinary record during his/her time in the facility, criminal history, and other factors.
      2. After reviewing these factors, the board will determine whether the incarcerated person has proven him/herself to be rehabilitated, and decide whether to grant release.
      3. The victim of the crime has the right to submit a "Victim Impact Statement" which is an account (written, audio-taped or video-taped. For certain crimes it can also be done in person) opposing the early release.
    4. If the incarcerated person has been granted release through the Parole Board, he/she will be released into the community under the supervision of a parole officer and stay on parole for the remainder of his/her sentence imposed by the judge.
    5. There are certain restrictions and conditions that someone on parole must abide by while on community supervision (similar to probation, see below).
    If a parolee violates any condition of his /her parole, he/she may be sent back to prison, or could face additional sanctions.
Learn more about the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.

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New York City Department of Probation

The New York City Department of Probation provides supervision and support services for people who have been convicted of a crime. Learn more about the New York City Department of Probation.

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Finding Out the Status of Your Offender (V.I.N.E. & VNS)

  • Victim Information and Notification Everyday (V.I.N.E.) is a 24-hour service that provides victims with automated notifications of the release dates and status of people who are in the custody of the New York City or State Department of Corrections prison system.

  • In order to receive these notifications, you will need to sign up for V.I.N.E. by calling 888-846-3469 (TDD 866-847-1298) or visiting the V.I.N.E. website.

  • When you sign up, V.I.N.E. will ask if you prefer to receive notifications via text, phone call, and/or email.

  • If you are the victim of a federal crime, typically, you will be automatically entered into the Victim Notification System (VNS) through the Department of Justice. If you were not automatically entered into VNS, please contact the U.S. Attorney's Office in the area where the offender was prosecuted.

  • VNS will notify you when the offender is incarcerated; his/her release date, if he/she escapes, if he/she is granted furlough, if he/she is transferred or placed to a residential reentry center, or if he/she has an upcoming parole hearing.

  • Your first notification will be via mail, providing you with a special PIN and victim ID#. After your initial notification, you can either call the VNS Call Center at 866-365-4968 to find information on an inmate (you must know your PIN) or visit the United States Department of Justice Web site to sign up for and receive notifications by email.

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