Over 50 Years of Experience On Your Team

If you’re accused of a crime, then you need a NYC criminal attorney who is available 24/7 to help. We treat each client, like a member of our family – and their case like if it were our own. Unlike other firms, we charge a very reasonable fee, and offer flexible monthly payment plans. Our firm has been ranked highly by organizations like Avvo, and others. Our law firm firmly believes that you deserve the best. The Lawyers at Spodek Law Group P.C. have a history of obtaining results for the clients. When the chips are down, and you have no where to turn you can rest assured that we will be on your side.

Our teams at our three locations, are available to handle your criminal case 24/7. We have numerous lawyers available to handle your case – depending on the complexity, and type of case. You have 24/7 access to the new york criminal attorney assigned to your case. Our firm is interviewed by major news organizations like FOX, NYPOST, FOX BUSINESS, and others.The attorneys at Spodek Law Group P.C. have represented clients in New York City with similar criminal charges before, and understand how the district attorneys office investigates and prosecutes the crime.

Nationally Recognized Criminal Lawyers

Recent Case Results

  • Robbery


    Faced 5 years in jail. We got case dismissed.

  • Burglary


    Faced 10 years in jail. We got case dismissed.

  • Fraud

    Home Detention

    Pump and dump scheme and faced 21 months in prison.

  • Gun


    Gun possession charges. All charges dismissed.

  • Homicide


    Client falsely accused of vehicular homicide.

View More Results

Meet our Criminal Lawyers

View All Criminal Defense Lawyers

Trustworthy Criminal Attorneys

Spodek Law Group, is a premier criminal defense law firm based out of NYC. Our criminal defense law firm was founded by two former prosecutors, who understand how deeply a criminal accusation can impact your future. We empathize with what you’re going through – and believe in providing the best possible defense. We have over 50 years of combined experience amongst our team, and have seen virtually every type of case. Over 99% of cases we handle end in a positive outcome for our clients. Your future is important – and protecting it, begins with hiring Spodek Law Group.

As former prosecutors, we know how the prosecutor on your case is going to build the case – where his/her weaknesses will be, and how to fight the charges. Our unique experience as prosecutors enables us to handle cases differently, and be able to predict the opposing prosecutors game plan. Everything we do, revolves around getting amazing results for our clients. If you’re accused of a crime, we offer a risk free consultation so you can understand what you’re being accused of doing, what are the possible punishments – and how we think we can help you. Our criminal law offices offers a flexible payment plan, so money is not an issue when trying to hire us. We are passionate about helping anyone, and everyone, accused of a crime. If you are facing jail, we can help – just contact our lawyers today.

We handle all pre-trial motions

Within 45 days of your arraignment, your criminal defense lawyer must make all motions in the form of one omnibus motion filed with the district attorneys office and the court in which your case is pending. All motions that are capable of being made at that time should be made in the omnibus motion. The Omnibus motion generally includes a Motion to Compel Discovery, a Motion to Compel a Bill of Particulars, Motion for a Separate Trial, a Motion for a Severance of Offenses, Motion to Suppress Statements, Motion to Suppress Identification testimony and a Motion to Suppress Physical Evidence.

Our lawyers have over 50 years of combined experience helping clients all over the state of New York, NYC, and Long Island. We have 3 convenient locations, in NYC, Nassau County, and Suffolk County. We have partner attorneys all over the country – who work with us to help clients. Many attorneys refer us clients because they trust in our ability to help clients get the outcomes they – and their family members – need.

Our team of NYC lawyers treats each case uniquely. We don’t believe in a cookie-cutter approach to law. We work with our clients to help them understand what they are facing – in order to prepare them for all the possible outcomes. Our #1 objective is to get all charges dismissed, or significantly reduced – so you aren’t impacted. We offer a risk free consultation over the phone, or in person at one of our three locations. Regardless of the complexity of your case – we can help you. If you are charged with a violation, misdemeanor, or felony charge we will invest our blood, sweat and tears into your case. We will never judge you for the choices you have made. We will be there when no else is, and we will do everything in our power to get you out of this situation unscathed.

We are going to let law enforcement and the prosecution know that we are representing you and NO one is to speak to you about the criminal case without us being present. This is key because what better evidence can a prosecutor obtain then an admission by the client directly. We are going to prevent the defendant from being held for a lineup without us being present. This is key because we want to make sure that law enforcement does not do anything to push the victim or a witness to ID our client as the perpetrator. Once we have asserted our clients rights, we are going to immediately figure out what evidence the prosecutor has against you. This is how you win cases. Not only do we want to know the evidence against you, we want to know the evidence that they don’t have.

Why Spodek Law Group

  • Top Rated Lawyers

  • No-Nonsense Help

  • No Fee. Unless We Win

  • 24/7 customer Service

  • Former Prosecutors

  • 99% Success Rate

Why Clients Choose Us

99% Success Rate

The Spodek Law Group is one of the most successful criminal defense law firms in New York. We have a 99% success rate, when it comes to the success and positive outcomes of the criminal defense cases we handle. 99% of the cases we've handled have ended in a positive outcome for our client, compared to what they were originally facing. Our goal is to help clients get all charges against them either dismissed, or significantly reduced. We help you prevent the criminal charges facing you from impacting your future. it's why you can trust our criminal defense lawyers in NY.

24/7 Legal Help

We firmly believe that tragedy never waits, before striking - and that means, when you're arrested - you deserve immediate legal help. That's why we always have a criminal defense attorney available 24/7 to help you. In addition, there are 2 two criminal defense attorneys assigned to each case. This guarantees that there is always someone on call 24/7 to handle any emergencies. We offer flat fee arrangements, accept payment plans, and all major credit cards. We thoroughly investigate the evidence against our clients, and prepare each case.

Flexible Payment Plans

We pride ourselves on charging lower fees, than other criminal defense law firms - in addition to offering flexible payment plans. We firmly believe that money should never stop you from working with the lawyer you want to. We make it easier, by offering flexible payment plans. We work with you, so that our fees aren't a burden on you - or your family. We also accept a wide array of payment forms, and charge lower fees than other firms.

Over 50 Years of Experience

Our Philosophy and Who We Are

Our new york criminal defense law firm is extremely selective about the number of clients we service each month. We take on a select few number of clients. Our goal is to take on fewer clients in order to provide great service to each client. Our objective is to provide impeccable service, and amazing case results. That’s one of main reasons why many of our clients refer us to their friends, and family members – when they need an attorney.

Risk Free Consultation
Our NYC criminal attorneys offer a risk free consultation, in person or over the phone. During the initial consultation, you can ask us anything you’d like. Typically, we answer questions like – what the case is about, what type of punishments might be given – and how you can fight the crime. Typically, that means either looking at how to get the case dismissed, or how we can help plea down the case to a more acceptable situation. We believe that once you take this free consultation, you’ll realize it’s a good idea to work with us. Our criminal defense law firm has numerous locations – we can either meet you at your place of business/home, or you can come to our office. Once you sign up with us, we handle your entire case!

Aggressive and Unyielding
As a criminal defense law firm founded by 2 former New York Prosecutors – we are aggressive, and extremely resourceful. We get each client the results he, or she, deserves.

Top Notch Litigators
Our New York lawyers have all been recognized as top rated, by ranking services like Avvo, National Trial Lawyers Organization, SUPER Lawyers, and many others.

We’re Dedicated To You
Our lawyers are passionate about one thing: helping our clients get the best outcome. We don’t focus on billable hours – like other firms. We only care about providing the best possible solution.

We’re your ally. We’re your guiding hand.
You can trust our NYC criminal lawyers to tell you what to do. We understand you’re relying on us to tell you how your criminal accusation will impact your future. When you work with us, we’ll tell you exactly what to expect, and what to do.

The firm you want and need when you’re hurt

Raiser & Kenniff is an amazing firm, and truly impeccable when it comes to service and results. I highly recommend them, and I think you’ll be happy if you work with them.


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Mr. Steve Raiser did an excellent job handling my case

Mr. Steve Raiser did an excellent job handling my case, his hard work led to the dismissal of my cases. Not only was Steve Raiser very professional, he was also very personable as I was able to talk to him as a friend and seek advice from him.


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Frequently Asked Questions

An arrest is made when a police officer either has a warrant signed by a judge or has personally witnessed the suspect committing a crime. Once arrested the suspect will be taken by the police officer to jail to be fingerprinted and photographed. The suspect will be required to answer a series of personal questions and will then be placed in a holding cell. The police must give the suspect an opportunity to make completed phone calls within three hours of the arrest. The suspect will use these calls to contact a criminal defense attorney and to alert friends and family members.

The suspect will be given a court hearing within 48 hours of being placed in custody. The suspect will be allowed to meet with their attorney before the court hearing takes place.

When the suspect is taken into court, the judge will inform the suspect of the crime they are being charged with, and will ask the suspect to enter a plea. The suspect can either tell the judge that they are guilty, not guilty, not guilty by reason of insanity, or that they plead no contest. The suspect should consult their attorney about which plea to enter before the hearing begins.

A guilty plea is an admission of guilt, and the suspect will be responsible for the consequences of the crime. With a plea of no contest, the suspect is not admitting guilt but is also not disputing the facts of the charges brought against them. If the suspect pleads not guilty by reason of insanity, they may be placed under psychiatric supervision. A plea of not guilty will force the prosecutor to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the suspect committed the crime.

The suspect will be given the opportunity to choose between a bench trial or a jury trial. If the suspect chooses a jury trial they will be tried before a group of their peers, and these peers will determine guilt or innocence. If the suspect chooses a bench trial they will be tried before the judge only, and the judge will decide the outcome. The suspect should consult their attorney to determine which option would be most beneficial.

What happens next depends on the outcome of the trial. If the suspect is found innocent, they will be allowed to go free. If the suspect is found guilty, or if the suspect pleaded guilty or no contest, a sentencing hearing will be held. Before the sentencing takes place, the judge will review the suspect’s past criminal behavior and try to determine whether or not the suspect has any substance abuse issues. The judge will take this information into consideration when deciding a verdict.

At the sentencing hearing the judge may want to hear the opinions of the suspect’s friends and family, or from the victim of the crime. The judge will then declare a verdict based on sentencing requirements and the evidence provided. Depending on the severity of the crime, the sentence could involve jail, a monetary fine or community service.

Strategic plea bargaining is an essential part of the criminal justice process. There is no question, that the more criminal case are disposed of through plea bargaining then through hearings and trials. Part of the NY criminal defense lawyer’s job is to provide the best plea bargain for their client and let the client make an educated decision whether to attempt to win at trial or accept a plea bargain. Plea bargains are governed by the criminal procedure law as well as formal and informal policies at particular district attorneys offices. Felonies are governed by CPL 220.10 and misdemeanors are governed by CPL 340.20 for misdemeanors. The goal in plea bargaining is different for felonies then it is for misdemeanors. For misdemeanors the goal is to obtain an Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal (“ACD”), or a sealed violation. In felony criminal cases, the goal is to obtain the lowest permissible offense which the defendant could plead guilty to and the minimum permissible sentence under that offense.

Plea bargaining rules:

A criminal defendant can plea guilty to the entire information or indictment except for the charge to murder in the first degree unless the district attorney and the court consents.
If the indictment or criminal court information charges only one count, then the defendant can plead guilty to a lesser included offense to cover the indictment or information. This can only be done with the consent or the district attorney and the judge.
If the indictment or criminal court information charges more then one count, then with the consent of the assistant district attorney and the judge the defendant can plea guilty to
one or more, but not all of the offenses charged
a lesser included offense with respect to any of the offenses charged
any combination of offenses charged and lesser included of the other offenses charged
If you are charged with a misdemeanor the defendant can plead to an information or can waive their right to an information and plead to a criminal complaint. In New York, a criminal defense attorney can recommend the defendant waive prosecution by information, the right to a pre-sentence report, and formal allocution. A pre sentence report can be waived as long as the defendant is not sentenced to any of the following: a) a term of probation, b) a term of city time in excess of 90 days and c) consecutive terms of imprisonment aggregating more then 90 days.

A pre-sentence report can still be waived by mutual consent of the parties and the court if:

a sentence of jail has been agreed to by all of the parties and will be satisfied by the defendants already served jail time (time served)
a sentence or probation has been agreed and has been imposed
a pre sentence report has been prepared in the prior 12 months, or
a sentence of probation has been revoked
If a defendant charged with a misdemeanor waives the pre-sentence report then they can be sentenced at teh time of plea. They “stand ready for sentencing.” In New York City, is it common to dispose of misdemeanor criminal cases by accepting a plea to a violation such as disorderly conduct under PL 240.20 or harassment under PL 240.25.

The plea bargaining restrictions for indicted felony criminal cases in New York are:

If the highest charge in the indictment is for a non-drug class A felony, the lowest permissible plea is to a C violent felony
If the highest charge in the indictment is for a class A1 drug felony, the lowest permissible plea is to an A2 drug felony.
If the highest charge in the indictment is a class A2 drug felony, the lowest possible plea is a class B felony
If the highest charge in the indictment is a class B violent and armed felony, the lowest possible plea a criminal defendant can get is a C violent felony
If the highest charge in the indictment is a class B violent (not armed) felony, the lowest possible plea a criminal defendant can get is a D violent felony
If the highest charge in the indictment is a class B drug felony, the lowest possible plea a criminal defendant can get is a D felony
If the highest charge in the indictment is a class B felony, the lowest possible plea a criminal defendant can get is a class E felony
If the highest charge in the indictment is a class C violent felony, the lowest possible plea a criminal defendant can get is a class D felony
If the highest charge in the indictment is a class C non-violent felony, there are no limitations.
If the highest charge in the indictment is a class D violent felony, there are no limitations.
If the highest charge in the indictment is a class D felony, there are no limitations
If the highest charge in the indictment is a class E felony, there are no limitations.

Each county in New York City has their own drug treatment courts. Generally this is a family court program, a criminal court program for those charged with misdemeanors and a supreme court: criminal division for those charged with felonies. The drug treatment court in family court deals with juveniles and parents charged in neglect cases. The drug treatment in criminal and supreme court deals with non-violent offenders in which drug played a role in the underlying crimes. The offenders must be non-violent, and voluntarily agree to participate in the court mandated program. A contact will be entered into amongst the defendant, the defense attorney, the assistant district attorney and the criminal court or supreme court judge. In the event that the defendant breaches the contract, there will be a jail alternative.

Manhattan (New York County) Drug Treatment Courts

Manhattan Family Treatment Court
60 Lafayette Street
New York, NY 10013
Phone: (646) 386-5360
Contact: Ruth Eichmiller

Manhattan Felony Treatment Court
100 Centre Street, Room 1337
New York, NY 10013
Phone: (646) 386-4626
Contact: Deborah Hall-Martin

Manhattan Misdemeanor Treatment Court
100 Centre Street
New York, NY 10013
Phone: 646-386-4629
Contact: Kathleen McDonald

Brooklyn (Kings County) Drug Treatment Courts

Brooklyn Screening and Treatment Enhancement Part (STEP)
Misdemeanor Brooklyn Treatment Court
120 Schermerhorn Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Phone: (646) 404-9550
Contact: Mia Santiago

Brooklyn Treatment Court
320 Jay Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Phone: (347) 296-1133
Contact: Joseph Madonia

Kings County Family Treatment Court
330 Jay Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Phone: (347) 401-9659
Contact: Sabrina Lebron

Bronx County

Bronx Treatment Courts

Bronx Misdemeanor Treatment Court
Bronx Hall of Justice
265 East 161st Street
Bronx, NY 10451
Phone: (718) 618-1371
Contact: Martha Epstein

Bronx Family Treatment Court
900 Sheridan Avenue
Bronx, NY 10451
Phone: (718)618-2180
Contact: Liliana Montana

Queens Family Treatment Court
151-20 Jamaica Avenue
Jamaica, NY 11432
Phone: 718-298-0161
Contact: P. Voula Correa

Queens Misdemeanor Treatment Court
125-01 Queens Boulevard
Kew Gardens, NY 11415
Phone: 718-298-0911
Contact: Naima Aiken

Queens Treatment Court
125-01 Queens Boulevard
Kew Gardens, NY 11415
Phone: 718-298-1303
Contact: Maritza Karagiorgos

Staten Island Treatment Court
67 Targee Street
Staten Island, NY 10304
Phone: 718-390-8410
Contact: Ellen Burns

Going to criminal court in New York City can be a frustrating and scary experience. This is especially true when you are facing serious criminal charges that can result in a long incarceration period. New York City prosecutors are adamant about reducing crime in the metropolitan area, as it is one the world’s most attractive tourist destinations, as well as the home to over seven million primarily law-abiding residents. Having an experienced and aggressive criminal defense attorney is imperative when attempting to defend against any criminal charge in a New York City court room when the charges and potential penalties are significant. This is especially true when being charged with a felony because all felonies carry the potential for long-term state penitentiary incarceration. When in doubt, we encourage you to contact our criminal lawyers.

New York City is a unique region. There are seven distinctive areas within the municipality and the court systems are not uniform. Different levels of criminal prosecutions are handled in differing locations and names of the particular criminal court do not always comport. Even a defendant who is familiar with the New York City court system may have difficulty determining the exact location of the court where their case appears on the docket. An criminal lawyer who practices primarily in New York City will understand how to avoid a potential failure to appear charge when a defendant attempts to comply with the court, but goes to the wrong location. In addition, an attorney who works within the court system on a daily basis is familiar with the court officers and can be a solid voice for your case during the bargaining process.

If the prosecution offers you a plea deal to your public defender, it may not be a bad idea to take it. If the plea deal is fair, doesn’t impact your permanent record – and doesn’t seem toxic, then it’s a good idea to take the deal. 99% of the time, the prosecution doesn’t offer a good deal. If you hire an attorney who starts fighting back, you can almost always secure a better deal.

Our #1 goal is to get your criminal case dismissed. We often get many cases dismissed, before they even get to full trial. Often, prosecutors build cases built on faulty evidence. By focusing on the evidence of the case, we can see if the evidence is either faulty, or wrongfully gotten – which allows us to request the judge to dismiss the case. By attacking the evidence and how it was gathered, we can force the prosecution to agree to dismissing the case, or agreeing to a lower penalty.

Often, many cases end before they go to trial. When you work with former prosecutors, like those at Raiser & Kenniff, we can help you get that same outcome

Public defenders are a necessity to the legal system, but may not always provide adequate defense for the assigned client. The public defenders works for the same state that is prosecuting the case, and there will always be a question of how willing they are to work diligently to protect you. Many times the charge is a crime without a victim, especially in cases involving drug distribution on any level. Public defenders regularly work in one specific court and can become an ally of the local court officials in many cases. Never accept a public defender for a criminal charge if there is any other option for legal representation.

Anyone in the city of New York who is facing criminal charges should contact our attorneys and let us do a professional and thorough analytic investigation of your particular case. We are very familiar with the overall city court structure and always represent our clients aggressively, including the willingness to take a case to trial when the charges are not valid. We understand how to craft a strong defense in any legal situation and have along track record of proven success at helping our clients receive a reduced case settlement including dismissal in cases where our client is being prosecuted on frivolous claims. Let us help you defend your case and ensure the respect of all of your legal rights.

In response to problems such as jail overcrowding and understaffed courtrooms, all states have implemented various innovative alternatives to traditional jail and/or prison terms for nonviolent crimes. Our lawyers can advise you about this, if it applies to your case. One of the more popular forms of alternative sentencing is deferred adjudication.

Although deferred adjudication has much in common with the more established practice of placing some offenders on probation, there are important differences between the two practices that are not well understood by those outside the legal profession.

Both deferred adjudication and probation are usually reserved as options for dealing with certain types of crimes and the criminal histories of particular offenders. In general, and depending on state law and sentencing guidelines, both tend to be reserved for:

  • nonviolent crimes
  • simple possession or possession without intent to distribute drug offenses
  • vandalism, burglary, or shoplifting below a certain dollar value
  • many “white collar” crimes below a certain dollar value

In most jurisdictions, deferred adjudication and probation are part of plea bargain agreement in which you agree to enter a plea of “guilty” or “no contest” to a charge if the court will also agree that you will receive a certain sentence. These agreements are reached as a result of a discussions involving you, your attorney, and the State’s Attorney or Assistant States Attorney that is handling your prosecution. It is up to the court as to whether or not it will accept the State’s recommendation and it is under no legal obligation to do so.

Depending on the state law, and the policies of the court having jurisdiction in your case, in deferred adjudication you will usually enter a plea of “no contest” to the crime with which you have been charged. The court will accept you plea but, rather than impose a sentence, the court will “postpone” or “defer” its judgement pending your satisfactory completion of certain conditions that the court will order.

Probation differs from deferred adjudication in that the court will accept your plea of “guilty” or “no context” but will then impose a sentence. However, the court will then order that you are to be allowed to serve your sentence outside of jail or prison so long as you agree to follow a set of conditions that the court will impose.

Of the two, deferred adjudication probably represent the better “deal” of the two since it technically not a conviction and you can thus truthfully answer that you were not convicted of the crime for which you were given deferred adjudication. The record of your arrest, your plea, and your adjudication will still exist but will not appear except to a more thorough background check.

Finally, many state’s laws contain provisions that, upon completion of certain required conditions, you record can be either “sealed” or “expunged.” In the former, your record will still exist but it will be from concealed from view unless by a court order. If your record is expunged, every reference and mention of your crime is physically destroyed.

The 6th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees a defendant the right to a lawyer to defend him or her in a criminal case. It has also been interpreted as conferring the right on criminal defendants to represent himself or herself in cases against them. No such right exists in a civil lawsuit. If you’re a criminal defendant, you might also be allowed to represent yourself, but you’ll need permission to do so from the judge who is presiding over your case. Whether or not it’s a good idea to ask a judge to represent yourself in a criminal case is up to your own best judgment, but it’s not recommended. Typically, you should hire a lawyer to work with you. The consequences of a conviction could be harsh, especially if you’re charged with a felony.

When to ask a judge
At an arraignment, defendants are advised of what they’re charged with, and a plea of not guilty is almost always entered. The court will schedule various dates along with a trial date. Most defendants who want to represent themselves ask a judge for permission to do so at the time of their arraignment. The judge will then set that issue for hearing.

The hearing
The purpose of the hearing on representing oneself is to make a formal record of the request and obtain a waiver of his or her 6th Amendment right to an attorney. The judge will want the defendant to confirm on the record that he or she is freely, voluntarily, knowingly and intelligently waiving their right to an attorney with full knowledge of the possible consequences.

The defendant’s competency
For purposes of an opportunity for a fair trial, the law doesn’t allow a person to represent himself or herself if the presiding judge doesn’t feel that the defendant is competent to do so. Competency in this context isn’t about whether the defendant is mentally ill or not. It’s about the ability to understand and participate in all phases of the case against him or her.

Factors that a court considers
In deciding on the issue of a defendant’s competency, some of the factors that a court takes into consideration include the defendant’s age, educational level, his or her ability to speak and understand English and the seriousness of the crime that he or she is charged with. These factors make it clear that you need not have the skills of a attorney to be able to represent yourself. You’ll be held to the same ground rules that attorneys are held to in all phases of your case though.

Remember that in waiving your 6th Amendment right to an attorney, you’re also waiving any right that you might have to claim ineffective assistance of counsel. Knowledge and experience in criminal law and procedure can make the difference between being found guilty or not guilty. It’s highly likely that you’ll be far better off having an attorney represent you in any criminal case.

As its name suggests, a Grand Jury has a larger number of jurors. A regular trials has 6-12 people. A Grand Jury has 12-23 people.

State Grand Juries are usually chosen in the same manner standard jurors are selected. The U.S. Courts summons eligible citizens who can serve up to 18 months.

Grand Jury Purpose

A Grand Jury is used solely to determine whether criminal charges should be brought against a particular defendant. It is not used for civil matters (civil matters generally deal with contracts and cases dealing with negligent/wrongful acts).

Only the Prosecutor (or Assistant District Attorney) presents the matter to the Grand Jury. The Prosecutor represents either the state or the United States.

During the proceedings, the Prosecutor presents the case and accuses the Defendant of a crime. There is no judge, defense attorney, or defendant. Only the Prosecutor’s witnesses present testimony and there is no cross-examination. The Grand Jury does not determine the defendant’s guilt or innocence. Instead, the Grand Jury determines whether there is probable cause to charge the defendant with the crime.

Sometimes a Special Grand Jury investigates matters for investigators, not prosecutors, usually when organized crime or political corruption is suspected. This is different from the aforementioned Grand Jury.

Weight of Evidence

“Probable cause” is the legal weight in which to determine whether to bring charges against the defendant.

The U.S. District Court says that when the evidence convinces 12 or more Grand Jurors that the defendant committed the crime, probable cause is established.

States have their own definitions of probable cause. The definitions are mostly made by common law, which means they are defined by court decisions, not statutes.

Origin of the Grand Jury

The 5th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution reads, in Part:

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury…

This takes its roots from the Magna Carter and was to protect citizens from spiteful, political or unjustified prosecutions.

Updates to the U.S. Constitution

On July 28, 1868, Congress ratified the 14th Amendment. It, in part, provided citizens “equal protection under the law” and directed that no state shall deprive anyone “due process of law,” or “equal protection of the laws.”

The courts have interpreted that the due process of law requirement did not necessarily require a Grand Jury indictment.

The states and the District of Columbia use Grand Juries, mostly for cases that may result in serious felony charges. Connecticut and Pennsylvania have eliminated them for criminal indictments, but still use them to investigate criminal activity.

For standard criminal cases, states conduct preliminary hearings. The prosecutor presents the case and the defendant may cross-examine. The judge then determines whether there is enough evidence for the defendant to stand trial. As with Grand Juries, the judge usually uses the “probable cause” standard.

The U.S. District Courts still use Grand Juries

All defendants who are accused of a crime are required by law to have adequate legal representation during the prosecution process. Many times an accused defendant will allow the court to assign a pro bono attorney when they qualify because of associated legal expenses. The problem is that many court appointed criminal attorneys either work for the state through the public defender’s office or are assigned from the local attorney pool by the jurisdictional judge. This means that the legal counsel for the defendant is also an employee of the same state that is pressing the charges, which rarely bodes well for the defendant. Prosecutors often act as though they are entitled to a conviction following any indictment or application of criminal charges, and an appointed attorney will normally be required to deal with the same prosecutor regularly. This situation alone is enough for anyone falsely accused of a crime to retain an experienced and effective criminal defense attorney who will work diligently to ensure that all legal rights to a solid defense are enforced.

What your criminal attorney can do
Criminal cases are built on evidence that must meet the standard of reasonable doubt. Your criminal defense attorney can evaluate all articles of evidence for legal application regarding truth and proper protocol by the police in acquiring the evidence. Arresting officers must follow all arrest protocols and maintain adherence to the Constitution when compiling evidence in an investigation. And, many times over-zealous police officers and prosecutors will prosecute an innocent individual in an attempt to get them to provide state’s evidence in the case. Your attorney can contest all of this evidence as inadmissible and move to have any immaterial case facts dismissed for consideration, which is something that a typical defendant usually cannot accomplish.

Defending your case
When you retain an attorney they can also question the statements of the officer as well as the motivation for the arrest when it obvious that charges are based on evidence that is weak or borderline. Having an attorney who is willing to take a case to a complete trial can be important, and many times an appointed attorney will avoid this at all costs because they know the prosecutor wants a guilty plea. Never plead guilty to a criminal charge when you are innocent because criminal histories can have a major impact on the life of the defendant going forward, including denial for government benefits, employment, and public housing. Retaining an attorney is always an investment in your personal future.

It is never a good decision to go before the court without legal representation because the state must only observe the minimal basic legal rights of the defendant and they are serious about a conviction merely because of the fact your are there. In many ways, a defendant must actually prove their innocence instead of the court proving the case against the defendant. It is important to remember that, even when charges are generally sound, a charge reduction can often be achieved with good legal counsel.

All felony cases in New York State must be prosecuted by a grand jury indictment, with the defendant being represented by a qualified New York criminal lawyer. The only exception is if the defendant, the defense, and the court agree that the defendant is going to plea to a Superior Court Information (“SCI”.) The grand jury is filled with between 16 and 23 people who are supposed to make up a cross section of the community. At least 12 people on the grand jury must decide to take some action.

What Can The Grand Jury Do?

Return an indictment when there is reasonable cause to believe the individual committed an offense
Direct the district attorney to file a prosecutors information in criminal court
direct the district attorney to request removal of the matter to family court
dismiss the charges
submit a grand jury report
In order for the grand jury to return an indictment the evidence must establish a legally sufficient case. The test is whether the evidence that is presented to the grand jury if unexplained and un-contraverted would warrant a conviction by a trial jury. Unlike other adversarial proceedings in the criminal justice system, the defense attorney has no role at the grand jury. The legal advisers to the grand jury are the court and the assistant district attorney. The assistant district attorney has an obligation to fairly present the evidence and instruct the grand jurors on the law.

Defenses in the Grand Jury

Grand jurors need to be instructed on exculpatory defenses which are defenses that would result in the finding of no criminal liability. There is no requirement that they be instructed on mitigating defenses which only reduce the gravity of the offense committed.

Witnesses in the Grand Jury

Any witness who provides the grand jury with evidence is given testimonial and transactional immunity under CPL 190.40(2). This is to encourage witnesses to speak to the grand jury without fear of legal repercussions. However, if the defendant elects to testify at the grand jury the assistant district attorney will require that he or she sign a waiver of immunity. The defendant must attest to and sign the waiver in the grand jury room.

Defendant Testifying in the Grand Jury

If the criminal defendant decides to testify, his or her NY criminal defense attorney will be present with them in the grand jury room. However, in New York, the criminal defense lawyer’s role will be limited to being available to answer any questions the defendant may have. The defendant has the right to give the grand jurors a narrative on what happened on the night in question. Once the defendant is finished with his narrative, the assistant district attorney can ask questions. The assistant district attorney will attempt to limit the narrative to the date in question, whereas it is usually in the defendants best interest to give a narrative that includes testimony about his or her background (family, work history, community ties, etc) If the assistant district attorney attempts to limit the defendants narrative to a point in which it curtails their right to make a statement to the grand jurors, then defense counsel should ask that the assistant district attorney leave the grand jury room and obtain a private ruling from the grand jury judge.

Defendant Witnesses Testifying in the Grand Jury

Whether the defendant chooses to testify before the grand jury or not, in New York a criminal lawyer can ask the grand jury to subpoena certain witnesses. Defense counsel can write a letter to the foreperson of the grand jury giving then names and addresses of the witness and the importance of their testimony It is up to the grand jury to decide whether to call the witnesses or not. The assistant district attorney may require that they sign a waiver of immunity.