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Criminal Law in New York

The worst has happened. Either you or a loved one have been questioned in or arrested for a New York crime. What next?

Most of the legal educational articles we write include the suggestion that working with an attorney would be beneficial – and we truly believe that. Not so in criminal defense law article because your future, finances, and freedom are all at stake.

You MUST consult with and hire a criminal defense lawyer to be able to choose and put forth your best defenses. Even though you have the legal right to self-representation, there is just too much at risk to consider going it alone.

In this article (which is based upon New York criminal law), we’ll discuss:

  • New York specific criminal laws;
  • What you need to know about criminal defense in New York; and
  • How to work with your New York criminal defense attorney.

New York Criminal Laws

Criminal statutes are on the books in an attempt to protect persons, property, and animals from harm. Written laws provide notice that some action or inaction is a crime and provide an indication of what punishments will be doled out if a law is broken.

New York criminal laws are found in New York Penal Code. Criminal defense lawyers having a working knowledge of New York Penal Law, the New York Criminal Procedure Law, the New York Vehicle and Traffic Law and the New York Alcoholic Beverage Control Law.

There are hundreds of crimes listed, including hate crimes, harassment, rape, trespass, disorderly conduct, DWI, assault, robbery, larceny, etc.

Statute of Limitations
Criminal charges must be brought within a certain period of time or be forever barred. Statutes of limitations are listed in the New York Rules of Criminal Procedure (Crim. Proc. В§30.10).

For example, in New York, the statute of limitations for:

  • Misdemeanor – 2 years
  • Murder or another Class A felony – none
  • Official Misconduct – 5 years

Judges often have discretion in doling out punishment. They weigh previous criminal history and aggravated circumstances. Capital punishment, jail time, home confinement, fines, restitution, and community service are available.

In addition, New York has sentencing guidelines thatseek to provide uniform punishment.

For example, in New York, sentencing guidelines call for:

  • Between no jail time and one year in jail for a Class A misdemeanor with no priors. Class A misdemeanors are serious misdemeanors. Examples are car stripping, bail jumping, and aggravated harassment;
  • Between 5 years and 25 years in jail for a Class B violent felony with no priors. Examples are rape, homicide, and violent assault;

What You Need to Know About Criminal Defense

If you or a loved one are being questioned about or have been arrested for a crime in New York, life, liberty, and money may be at risk.

  • Even if you are innocent, you need a criminal defense attorney. Hiring an attorney doesn’t mean you did anything wrong.
  • Call a criminal defense attorney right away. Evidence is best preserved as close to the alleged crime as possible. After all, memories fade and physical evidence vanishes.
  • You need to be completely honest and open with your attorney. Even if you think something will make you look bad, disclose it.
  • Ask for a criminal defense attorney; then, be quiet until you can talk privately with your attorney.

How to Work with a New York Criminal Defense Lawyer

  • Take your attorney’s advice, even if it doesn’t make sense to you at the time. He or she has carefully analyzed your case and knows how to handle the situation.
  • Explain what happened. Include all the details and be honest. Even if a fact makes you look bad, you need to disclose it. Your attorney is on your side and will keep what you said confidential.
  • Respond to all communications appropriately and in a timely manner.
  • Provide all requested information immediately.
  • Don’t disappear. Make sure the criminal defense office always has your current contact information.
  • Know that everything your attorney does is in your best interests. Even if your attorney asks you difficult questions, answer. Everything has a reason.
  • Remember that it’s okay for your criminal defense lawyer to cooperate with police officers, detectives, and the prosecutor. It’s better to build bridges than to burn them.

Bottom Line: Each and every criminal case is unique. A criminal defense lawyer must carefully investigate and analyze the circumstances and evidence to determine the most effective defense.

Ask the bar association or friends for referrals or simply Google, “How to find a New York Criminal Defense Attorney.”

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