Despite a global pandemic and court closures for many purposes, people still get arrested, and thus, the criminal courts must continue to function, albeit it a bit differently. Going forward, for the foreseeable future, courts will conduct criminal arraignments via Skype For Business, with the judge, prosecutor, defendant, and criminal defense attorney each appearing virtually from different locations.
When a person gets arrested – or when a person voluntarily surrenders himself to the precinct if they are aware there is a warrant out for their arrest – they go through a process known as “central booking”. Booking is basically when law enforcement takes the person into custody and registers in the system.
COVID-19 is changing how the law handles arrests
According to the court’s website, law enforcement will still bring defendants who are not COVID-19 positive or are not a part of the high-risk group for infection to central booking. However, if someone under arrest and has tested positive for COVID-19 or is a high risk for infection, law enforcement will instead detain them before their arraignment to participate in a video arraignment at either Midtown Community Court or Red Hook Community Justice Center.
Within 24 hours, they will be arraigned. An arraignment is when the court informs the defendant of the charges against them and when the judge decides whether to set bail. The defense attorney will typically do the talking on the defendant’s behalf. The defense attorney will already have spoken to the defendant before the arraignment so they’re informed about the case and the defendant’s position on the issues.
The best-case scenario is for the judge to let the defendant return to the next court appearance on his own recognizance, also known as “ROR” – Return on Recognizance” – i.e. no bail is set, and the defendant is not jailed until disposition of the matter.
Arraignments are a constitutional right
As a result of the court’s efforts to flatten the curve of COVID-19, most court appearances have adjourned to summer dates, deadlines have extended, and yet other court appearances are taking place virtually or by phone. Arraignments cannot fully adjourn as arrested people have constitutional rights; therefore, arraignments fall into the category of cases that cannot adjourn and courts are holding them virtually.
If you or someone you know receives an arrest or is aware of a warrant for their arrest, contact the Cedeno Law Group as we are well versed in criminal law, arraignments, as well as voluntary surrenders.
For more information, see the court video here.