Procedure for Handling an Effective Criminal Arraignment Following an Arrest in New York City

(This Example is for Manhattan)


Arraignment Basics

Location:   Criminal Court of the City of New York, New York County
                   Arraignment Part (AR-1; AR-3)
                   100 Centre Street, (1st Floor)
                   New York, NY 10013


People arrested in Manhattan, for a violation of the New York State Penal Law, appear before a State Court Judge at 100 Centre Street for Criminal Arraignment.


The Arraignment Part(s) run 365 days a year in Manhattan, from approximately 9:00am through 1:00am in two shifts.


Normal arrest to arraignment time in New York City is 24 hours or more, with experienced counsel.


The primary issue at an arraignment is whether the individual will be released on their own recognizance, or bail will be set (cash or bond) to insure their return at a future date.


Minor offenses may be resolved at the arraignment, however most cases will be set down for a future date.


10 Steps to an Effective Arraignment



1. Call the Precinct (where the arrest occurred)

  • Speak to the police officer (please don’t question my client).
  • Speak to the client (don’t speak to the officers, do speak to the Criminal Justice Agency representative at court. Tell the client to be charming and forthright as to his significant ties to the NYC community.)
  • Obtain the client’s Arrest number.

2. File a Notice of Appearance

  • Fax notice to the Arraignment Clerk at (212) 374-1846.
  • Confirm that the Clerk received the notice by calling (212) 374-3126.
  • The Clerk may also provide the arrest number (he has a computerized list right in front of him with all arrest numbers on it.)

3. Prepare Client’s Family for Their Role in the Process

  • Family to be present in court when the client is before the judge (explain the 24 hour arrest to arraignment time and that you will alert them when the case is ready).
  • Obtain and have present in court cash bail (as much as the family can easily obtain, at least $2,500).


4. Monitor Progress of the Case on the Telephone (Is the client ready to see the judge yet?)

  • Call the clerk at (212) 374-3126. Provide the arrest number and ask if the case has been docketed. (Do this every two hours or so as the case approaches 24 hours).
  • If docketed, alert the family that you will meet them in court and head down to court in business attire.

5. Arrive and Obtain Defense Copy of Court Papers

  • Court officers will have a copy of your papers (hopefully with your Notice of Appearance attached) at a desk in the court room.
  • If client is not up in the courtroom, ask for the expeditor’s assistance (Mr. Bob Smith) in getting your client produced and ready to be arraigned.

6. Interview Client / Analyze Papers

  • Client interview should emphasize his background, educational and work history, family and other significant ties to the NYC community, not the facts of this particular case.
  • The issue for the court will be whether this individual has strong ties to New York and is otherwise the type of person who will return to court on his own.
  • Analyze Court Papers:
  1. The Complaint - You are pretty much stuck with those facts for the arraignment.  Only an inherent weakness on the face of the complaint, such as a two month delay in the reporting of a robbery, would be relevant at arraignment.
  2. Rap Sheet - If no prior criminal record, this is one of your most powerful arguments for release.
  3. Criminal Justice Agency (CJA) Interview Report - If CJA recommends Release on Recognizance (no bail or ROR) this is a strong factor in your favor.

7. Speak to the Assistant District Attorney (ADA)

  • If possible, at a break, speak to the ADA and ask her position on bail, will she consent to ROR? If not, what will her bail request be?
  • Ask for the assigned ADA’s name and telephone number (to be used as the case progresses).
  • Don’t argue the facts, be pleasant.

8. The Actual Arraignment

  • The Court officer at the Bridge calls the case.
  • Give your appearance (i.e. name and address).
  • He’ll ask if you waive a formal reading of the charges. You do, say so.
  • The court will turn to the ADA for “notices” pursuant to the Criminal Procedure Law. Accept any documents handed to you.
  • If the case is a felony and the People serve notice pursuant to “190.50” you must do something important.
  • When the court turns to you to speak (after the DA finishes), say “I’m serving written cross 190.50 notice” and hand over to the ADA written Grand Jury Notice.  This preserves your client’s right to testify in the Grand Jury and as a consequence, requires that the District Attorney’s Office keep you somewhat informed of their progress in indicting the case.  You may always withdraw this later.

9. The Bail Application

  • This is the heart of an arraignment and why you are here.
  • If the DA asks for bail at the conclusion of her request, the court will turn to you and say, “Counsel, I’ll hear you.”
  • You’re on and you have at most 2 minutes to passionately persuade the court that the client should be released.
Suggested Argument Keys:
  1. CJA recommendation for release;
  2. No prior criminal record;
  3. Family in court room (mother, father, wife, husband, are of value);
  4. Work history;
  5. Education;
  6. Children;
  7. Owns home / business in New York County.

You get the point. The issue here is not “are they guilty”, but rather “are they a stable enough member of the community that they will return to court to face these charges at a future date?”


10. Court’s Decision

  • If ROR, pick a convenient future date for the matter next to be heard.
  • If bail is set in an amount that the family has in court, ask the court staff to hold the client in the back and inform the court officer that you are making bail from court.  Go directly to the clerk’s office with the family and post cash bail.  The client will then be released from the courtroom.

Odds and Ends

  • Occasionally, a plea offer may be made on a minor matter at arraignment, thus ending the case. I am inclined to accept only an Adjourned in Contemplation of Dismissal (ACD) which is effectively a dismissal.  Even an offer of a non-criminal violation, such as a “Disorderly Conduct”, I will put over to a future date to attempt to do a better, such as an ACD.
  • Bail is often set at a particular amount, cash or bond.  In other words, you often have a choice as to which type of bail to post.  Cash is only cash that can be counted out at the clerk’s window or at any corrections facility.  Bond requires the services of a Bail Bondsman, who requires a significant fee (taking a certain percentage of the amount posted.)  
  • The advantage of cash bail is that the state returns the amount (less a 3% fee) at the conclusion of the matter, no matter how the case was resolved.  (So long as the defendant made all appearances.)  If the case is ultimately dismissed, 100% of the amount is returned by the state.


Please feel free to call me with any arraignment questions. Please see also my "Criminal Arraignment Video" included in this website.


Prepared and Presented by:

Stephen G. McCarthy, Jr. Esq.
35 Worth Street, 3rd Floor
New York, NY 10013
917.270.0236 (cell)
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