New York City Criminal Court Information

Presented by Shalley & Murray 718-268-2171

Information about the New York City Criminal Court System including New York City Criminal Defense Lawyers prepared by New York City Criminal Attorney Don Murray.

I have been going back and forth to court on my misdemeanor case for a long time (200 days). I thought speedy trial required dismissal after 90 days.

The speedy trial rules are trickier than they initially appear for the defense. Speedy trial is not a simple calculation of 90 days after the date of arrest. 

So when you are are arraigned on a misdemeanor case, the government's "clock" is set to 90 days. From that moment on, each adjournment of the case requires that a question be answered. That question is "Whose fault is this adjournment?" If the answer to that question is that it is the Government's fault, then the time to the next court date is charged against the Government's clock and days are ticked off. If the answer to the question is that the adjournment is the defendant's fault, then the time is NOT charged against the Government's clock. This question gets asked after each adjournment and the Government's clock is either docked time or not depending on the answer. Under the rules, if the Government's clock ever reaches 0, then the case must be dismissed. 

Now for a little dose of reality. 

The rules for who is responsible for adjournments are written so that one thing is almost always true. That is that it is usually the defendant's fault. Realize that "fault" here is a relative term. If the defendant wants to file pretrial motions, the time taken to do that is the defendant's fault, even though it would likely be malpractice not to file motions in most cases. While people go on and on about who should be blamed for adjournments, and the debates about this rage endlessly in criminal court, the truth of the matter is that it will nearly always be the defendant's fault unless the prosecutor specifically says the magic words "We are not ready." That is about the only time that the Government can be clearly said to take the blame for the adjournment. This is an approximation of course because the rules of speedy trial are a vast and incomprehensible soup of seemingly conflicting statements. So a simple way to sum them up in a "rule of thumb" for purposes of this sort of a forum, is to say that unless the Government says "We are not ready" on the record, then the adjournment is charged to the defense. 

Therefore, in this way, cases can linger for a year or longer before going to trial even though the "speedy" trial statute says that trials of misdemeanors must happen in 90 days. In theory, in fact, your case could linger for an infinite period of time as long as the adjournments are not "charged to the Government". 

Eventually, the case will become so old that it will attract the attention of an Administrative Judge whose head will explode when your case ages beyond some arbitrary red line of "too oldness". At that point, it won't matter what either lawyer says in terms of readiness and the case will be "sent out" regardless of whether the lawyer is suffering from bubonic plague or whether the Government witness is in combat in a foreign land. Your case will become the most important case in the Courthouse and it will be tried or settled that day at all costs, do not pass Go do not collect $200. 

Of course these are all things for your lawyer to discuss with you at greater length. 

 

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