25 Sep 23

What are the different stages of a criminal case in New York?

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Last Updated on: 25th September 2023, 06:39 pm

Stages of a Criminal Case in New York

Being charged with a crime in New York sets off a long, complex process with many phases. Understanding the basic stages of a criminal case can help you know what to expect.


The first stage is the arrest. Police only need probable cause to make an arrest, either through direct observation or an arrest warrant. At arrest, police should notify you of your Miranda rights.


After arrest, suspects go through booking at the police station. This involves collecting fingerprints and photos. Police also do a background check for outstanding warrants and prior criminal history.


Within 24 hours of arrest, defendants appear before a judge for arraignment. This hearing sets bail and appoints counsel if you cannot afford an attorney. You are formally notified of the charges against you.

Grand Jury Review

For felony cases, prosecutors must present evidence to a grand jury to establish probable cause for the charges. If the grand jury finds probable cause, they return an indictment allowing the case to move forward.

Pretrial Motions

Your defense attorney can raise issues like challenging evidence or requesting dismissal through pretrial motions. If issues can’t be resolved, judges may hold hearings.

Plea Bargaining

Many cases end through plea bargaining, where defendants plead guilty in exchange for concessions by the prosecutor like reduced charges. Plea deals must be approved by a judge.


If no plea agreement, the case proceeds to a bench trial before a judge or jury trial. Prosecutors present evidence to try to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt. Defense rebuts evidence and can present counter evidence.


If convicted at trial, the judge determines penalties like fines, probation, restitution and jail time. Both defense and prosecution can present arguments regarding desired sentencing.

Post-Trial Motions

Defense attorneys may file motions after conviction to try to overturn the verdict, like requesting a new trial. If denied by trial judge, issues can be raised again through appeal.


Defendants who lose at trial can appeal their case to a higher court. Appeals argue procedural errors, insufficient evidence, incorrect application of law, or violations of rights.

Post-Conviction Relief

If appeals fail, defendants can pursue habeas corpus petitions and other post-conviction relief. These collateral challenges raise issues outside trial record like new evidence of innocence.

Parole and Probation

Inmates sentenced to prison are eligible for parole after minimum time served. Those on probation must comply with supervision terms or face revocation.

Key Steps Explained


The arraignment hearing is when defendants are formally notified of charges against them. Bail is set or defendants are released on their own recognizance. If needed, counsel is appointed.

Grand Jury

Felony cases must go before a grand jury composed of citizens. Prosecutors present evidence and witnesses. If the jury finds probable cause, they issue an indictment allowing the charges to proceed.

Plea Bargaining

Many cases end through plea bargaining between the defense and prosecution. Defendants agree to plead guilty in exchange for charge reductions or lighter sentencing recommendations.


If no plea deal, cases go to trial before judge or jury. Prosecution must prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt. Defense can cross-examine witnesses and present counter evidence. Jury must reach unanimous verdict.


If convicted, judges determine penalties based on factors like charges, criminal history, and mitigating/aggravating circumstances. Both sides can argue desired sentence.

Know Your Options

Facing criminal charges is scary. But knowing the process and your rights helps you make informed choices at each phase. With an experienced attorney, you can develop the best defense and aim for the most favorable outcome possible.


[1] Stages of a Criminal Case in NY

[2] Basic Steps in a NY Criminal Case

[3] How a Criminal Case Works – FindLaw

[4] Going to Court as a Victim of Crime in NY

[5] New York Criminal Procedure Law