How Long Does a Criminal Case Take in New York?

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How Long Does a Criminal Case Take in New York?


You already know that the 6th Amendment grants you the right to a “speedy” trial. Yet you might also know that some people who can’t afford bail or who aren’t granted an alternative pre-trial release option can sit in jail for months, sometimes even years, before they are convicted of any crime.

What gives? What does a speedy trial really mean? What does it mean in New York?

Here’s what you need to know.

What are 30.30 speedy trial rights?

We can get criminal charges commenced if prosecutors violate the 30.30 speedy trial laws. A trial must commence:

  • 30 days after an arraignment for a Violation
  • 60 days after an arraignment for a Class B misdemeanor
  • 90 days after an arraignment for a Class A misdemeanor
  • 180 days after an arraignment for a felony

The arraignment is your first court appearance. It is the date that you are brought to a judge to hear the charges being read and to enter a plea: guilty, not guilty, or no contest. 

Sounds straightforward, but if it were as straightforward as it sounded nobody would spend years in jail awaiting a trial. The truth is the clock can be stopped and restarted.

What can stop and restart the clock?

  • Unavoidable court delays, such as those caused by natural disasters, or, more recently, the pandemic
  • Court case backlogs
  • Your own defense lawyer’s requests to have more time to prepare
  • The prosecutor files a “certificate or statement of readiness” saying they are ready for trial, which stops the clock
  • Case adjournments, including adjournments for discovery or motions
  • Your own defense lawyer’s need for evidence suppression hearings
  • The prosecutor uses legally available procedures to request more time

Many of these stops and starts are for your protection, but that doesn’t mean it’s not nerve wracking to see them happening while you’re sitting in jail. 

How long does a misdemeanor case really take?

It can take six months to a year to actually get a misdemeanor case to trial in New York. You may end up returning to court many times before your actual trial date. 

How long does a felony case really take?

As mentioned, some people wait years to actually see their felony trial date. 

What should you do? 

First, hire an attorney who will try to help you get a workable pretrial release option: bail you can pay, the supervised release program, or release on your own recognizance. You’re much more likely to win an acquittal if you can get out of jail between your arrest and your trial.

Second, keep in mind that eventually a plea bargain may be your best bet. While it can be galling to accept a plea bargain because the court system dragged its feet, the truth is there are times when you can apply all of your time served to the bargain and walk that day. For many, accepting the criminal record is a small price to pay for getting out of prison. 

But pay attention to your attorney’s advice and don’t give up hope either. Plea bargaining is not always the best bet. There are some cases it’s just not worth it for the prosecution to pursue and the prosecution knows it. Sometimes we can get those charges dropped or dismissed.

The one thing you shouldn’t do is assume that speedy means the court system will be done with you quickly. Unfortunately, that would be a false hope.

See also: 

When Is It Smart to Take a Plea Deal?

What is a Pretrial Motion?

In The News: The Kalif Browder Settlement


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