You and your husband were getting ready for a nice dinner out at Il Cenacolo and you had to leave soon. Your son had agreed to "babysit" his younger sister but hadn't arrived yet. You were sure he would get there soon, but as you watched the clock, you started getting nervous. He had been hanging out with a new crowd lately and you didn't really know them. Had they gotten into trouble? Gotten hurt? You took a deep breath and reminded yourself that he was now an adult and you had raised him to make good decisions. The traffic was probably just heavy. Right then the phone rang. Your son had been arrested. So much for making good decisions. What happens now? What do you do?
Here we've compiled some basic information to help when you or a loved one is involved in a criminal case in Newburgh. For a general overview you may wish to start by checking out the FindLaw section on Criminal Law. Then return here for information specific to Orange County.
Who Will You Be Dealing With?
The first folks likely encountered in a criminal case in Newburgh are officers from the City of Newburgh Police Department or the Orange County Sheriff's Office. The case may be heard in the Newburgh City Court or the Orange County Court and will likely be prosecuted by the Orange County District Attorney. Some time may be spent in the Orange County Jail and possibly even one of the facilities of the New York State Department of Corrections.
Types of Crimes
Crimes are generally classified according to their relative seriousness and associated penalties.
The three main categories of offenses in Newburgh and the rest of New York are violations, misdemeanors, and felonies. For purposes of sentencing, misdemeanors are further subdivided into Classes A or B while felonies come in Classes A-1, A-11, B, C, D, and E. Violations (e.g. disorderly conduct) are the least serious offenses and are punishable by jail sentences up to 15 days.
How a crime is classified can have many implications on the case, including where it is prosecuted. Typically, in Newburgh, the City Court handles violations and misdemeanors, while the Orange County Court handles felonies.
Booking and Bail
After the accused has been arrested, the next stage of the case is usually booking and bail. Booking is the process by which information about the accused and the alleged crime is entered into the system. There will likely be photographs, fingerprints and searches as well.
Bail is essentially a promise made (either with money or a signature) to show up at court. The Orange County Jail provides a handout with information on the methods and instructions for how to bail a loved one out of that facility.
For a thorough overview of the New York State Criminal Justice Process, check out this Handbook prepared by the New York State Unified Court System.
Typically, the first appearance will be the arraignment where the official charges are read and future court dates are announced. If the defendant has been charged with a misdemeanor he will usually be asked for his plea (guilty, not guilty, no contest).
If there is a felony charge, he has the right to have his case presented to a grand jury, which will decide whether there is sufficient evidence that a crime was committed to put him on trial. If they determine that there is, they will file charges (an "indictment"), he will be formally charged and asked for his plea.
Generally, after a guilty plea, the case proceeds to legal punishment or sentencing. After a not-guilty plea, the case proceeds to trial.
Prior to trial, there will usually be a series of pre-trial hearings in which the parties attempt to set parameters with respect to what evidence and testimony will be introduced. It is also possible that the case will be resolved by a plea bargain.
Because being charged with a crime can be an emotional and frightening experience and the consequences of a criminal conviction can be severe and long lasting, it is strongly recommended that a criminal attorney be retained to help present the best defense. You can find a Newburgh criminal defense attorney here.