The following is a general overview of proceedings in a local criminal court and is not to be used as a legal reference in any proceeding before any court. It is recommended that if an individual is charged with a crime that he/she should seek advice from an attorney.
Jurisdiction | Crimes and Offenses | Commencement of Action | Arraignment | Warrants | Bench Trials | Trial by Jury | Sentencing | Alcohol/Drug Related Tickets | Termination in favor of the Accused | Certificates of Relief from Disabilities | Public Access to Court Records | Certificates of Disposition
- "City Court" means any court for a city, other than NYC, having trial jurisdiction of offenses of less than felony grade only committed within such city. Criminal Procedure Law (10.10)
- The City Courts have trial jurisdiction of all offenses other than felonies. Criminal Procedure Law (10.30)
- The type of cases heard are misdemeanors and violations.
- Preliminary matters in felony cases are heard before they are transferred to County Court.
- Violations - an offense that may involve a maximum jail sentence of 15 days.
- Misdemeanor - a crime which may involve a maximum jail sentence of one year.
- Felony - City Court has jurisdiction over felony matters from arraignment to preliminary hearings, which determine if there is sufficient evidence to hold the defendant in custody pending Grand Jury action. Criminal Procedure Law (180.00). If there is not sufficient evidence to be held for a felony level offense, the defendant must be released from custody and City Court retains jurisdiction.
- Grand Jury - A grand jury is a body consisting of sixteen (16) to twenty-three (23) persons, impaneled by a superior court. The functions of which are to hear and examine evidence concerning offenses. The Grand Jury proceedings are confidential.
A criminal action is commenced by the filing of an accusatory instrument with a criminal court. An accusatory instrument can be one of the following:
- Criminal Procedure Law (100.05)
- Simplified Information
- Prosecutor's Information
- Misdemeanor Complaint
- Felony Complaint
Ways to Secure a Defendant's Appearance in Court:
- Arrest Warrant
- Appearance Ticket
- Criminal Summons
- Simplified Information
- At arraignment, the defendant is advised of the charge(s) and advised of his/her right to counsel.
- If the defendant cannot afford an attorney and qualifies for an appointment of counsel, an attorney will be appointed.
- The court will consider setting bail or releasing the defendant.
- The defendant has the option of entering a plea of guilty or not guilty unless charged with a felony.
- If the defendant fails to appear in court, the court may order an arrest warrant.
- Warrant of Arrest - a process issued by a local criminal court directing local law enforcement to arrest a defendant designated in an accusatory instrument filed with the court and bring him/her before such court. Criminal Procedure Law (120.10)
- Bench Warrant - a process issued by a City Court Judge that may be executed in the county of issuance or any adjoining county that will bring the defendant to court without unnecessary delay. Criminal Procedure Law (530.70)
- The defendant may waive his/her right to a jury trial and request a bench trial. Criminal Procedure Law (320.10) A bench trial is a non-jury trial in which the Judge hears all the evidence and makes the determination of guilt or innocence.
- All Violation cases are Bench Trials as the defendant is not entitled to a jury trial.
- Misdemeanor cases - in which a jury consists of a six person panel, and up to two alternates.
- If you fail to appear, the trial can be held in your absence.
Burden of Proof:
- The prosecutor (Ex: District Attorney, Attorney General) has the burden of proving the facts beyond a reasonable doubt.
- The court may sentence the defendant upon a plea of guilty or conviction after trial, or set a future sentencing date.
- The court may order a Pre-Sentence Investigation Report from the local probation department, which supplies background information to the court regarding the defendant.
- The court may order the defendant to a term of incarceration depending upon the crime.
- Other sentencing alternatives include but are not limited to, Probation, Fines, Community Service, Home Confinement/Electronic Monitoring, Day Reporting and Work Release.
- City Court issues and forwards to the Department of Motor Vehicles:
- Orders of Suspension Pending Prosecution - suspend a defendant's driving privilege while a criminal prosecution for Driving While Intoxicated or Driving While Impaired by Drugs is pending.
- Orders of Suspension or Revocation - suspend or revoke a defendant's driving privilege after conviction of Driving While Intoxicated or Driving While Impaired.
- Notices of Temporary Suspension and Hearing - suspend, pending an administrative hearing, the driving privilege of a defendant who has been charged with an alcohol-related driving offense after having refused a chemical test.
- Orders of Suspension - suspend the driving privilege of a defendant convicted of drug-related offenses under Articles 220 and 221 of the Penal Law.
- Dismissal of the charges by motion of the defendant.
- Dismissal after six months or 12 months have expired when the defendant is given an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal.
- Acquittal after a jury or bench trial.
- Dismissal by court order vacating a judgment of conviction.
- Where the case is reversed and dismissed on appeal .
- City Court processes applications for Certificates of Relief from Disabilities received from individuals who have pled guilty or have been convicted after trial in City Court. Once a properly completed application has been filed with the court, it is forwarded to the Judge who sentenced the applicant. At the discretion of the sentencing Judge, a Certificate of Relief from Disabilities may be granted to relieve the applicant of any forfeiture or disability or to remove any bar to employment automatically imposed by reason of the applicant's conviction. Contact Court for more information.
If you have no more than two misdemeanor convictions or one felony and one misdemeanor conviction, you may be eligible to have those convictions sealed. Your last conviction and sentence must be at least 10 years old. You must file a motion with the appropriate court to have your records sealed. Click here to review additional material regarding this seal and to access a form application.
- Public access to court records is governed by Uniform Justice Court Act 2019-a and Judiciary Law 255. Court records are open and available to the public at reasonable times unless otherwise provided by law. The law provides that a case file is not available to the public where the criminal action is terminated in favor of the accused pursuant to Criminal Procedure Law 160.50 or where a defendant is adjudicated a youthful offender pursuant to Criminal Procedure Law 720.35.