HOW THE CRIMINAL COURT SYSTEM WORKS IN NEW YORK STATE

Arraignments

The arraignment is the first time you go to court in front of a Judge. At the arraignment, you are told what the charges are against you and what your rights are, like the right to a trial and the right to have an attorney appointed for you if you don’t have the money to hire one. After you have been given an attorney, you then answer the charges. You answer the charges by telling the court if you are guilty or not guilty. This is called the plea. Before the plea, your lawyer and the prosecutor may talk about settling your case without having a trial. This is called Plea Bargaining. If you plead not guilty, you will get a court date for a hearing or trial. If you plead guilty, the court will decide your punishment. This is called the Sentencing.

Plea Bargaining

Plea bargaining is when your lawyer and the prosecutor talk about settling the case without having a trial. This can be done at any time during the case, from the arraignment up until a verdict in a trial. You can ask for a plea bargain, but the prosecutor can choose not to plea bargain with you. If you agree on a plea bargain, it must be approved by the Judge. Only the Judge can decide your sentence. For example, you may agree to plead guilty in exchange for the prosecutor’s promise to ask the Judge for a sentence with no jail time, just probation. Or, you and the prosecutor may agree that you will plead guilty to a lesser charge that has a lower range of punishments for the Judge to choose from at your Sentencing.