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Last Updated on: 15th October 2023, 09:20 am
The Queens Criminal Court is located in the borough of Queens, New York and handles all criminal cases that occur in Queens. This courthouse sees a ton of cases each year – we’re talking around 100,000 misdemeanor and felony cases annually! It’s a busy place. Let’s take a look at what goes on in this courthouse and some of the key things you should know if you ever find yourself there, either as a defendant, victim, or witness.
The Queens Criminal Court is part of the New York State Unified Court System. It handles arraignments, hearings, trials and sentencings for criminal cases in Queens. The courthouse is located at 125-01 Queens Boulevard in Kew Gardens.
There are a few different parts that make up the Queens Criminal Court:
There are also a number of court services and programs located right in the courthouse including the Legal Aid Society, the District Attorney’s Office, Probation Department, and the Office of Court Administration.
The Queens Criminal Court handles all sorts of criminal cases including both misdemeanors and felonies. Some of the most common charges they see are:
Misdemeanors are crimes punishable by up to 1 year in jail. Felonies are more serious crimes punishable by over 1 year in prison. Queens Criminal Court handles cases from arraignment all the way through trial and sentencing.
After someone gets arrested in Queens, they are brought to the courthouse for arraignment within 24 hrs. This is there first appearance before a judge. The charges against them are read and bail is set or they are released on their own recognizance.
Many arraignments happen via video conference. The defendant appears from the holding cells in the courthouse basement on a video screen. A public defender is usually automatically appointed if the defendant can’t afford a lawyer.
It’s important to have a lawyer for arraignment to argue for release or reasonable bail. Prosecutors often ask for high bail amounts.
At arraignment, the judge decides whether to set bail, release the defendant on their own recognizance, or in rare cases, hold them without bail. Defendants can pay the bail amount to get out of jail while their case is pending. Most people use a bail bondsman who will post the full bail for a 10% fee.
If the judge releases a defendant on their own recognizance, they are let out without having to pay bail but must promise to return to court. The judge can also set conditions like probation supervision.
Bail reform laws passed in 2019 eliminated cash bail for most misdemeanors and non-violent felonies. But bail can still be imposed for violent felonies.
After arraignment, the case moves to the All Purpose Parts for pre-trial hearings and motions. These deal with issues like:
Many cases end up getting resolved through plea deals during this pre-trial phase once the defense has more information about the evidence.
If a case doesn’t get resolved through a plea bargain, it will go to trial before a judge or jury. The prosecutor presents evidence and witnesses arguing the defendant is guilty. The defense then argues their side. It’s up to the jury or judge to decide if guilt has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
Queens Criminal Court has dedicated trial parts for misdemeanor trials and felony trials. Trials can take days or even weeks depending on the complexity of the case.
If a defendant is found guilty at trial or takes a plea deal, the final step is sentencing. For misdemeanors, the judge can impose up to 1 year in jail. Felony sentences depend on the crime but can range from probation up to 25 years to life in prison.
Sentencing usually happens about 6 weeks after conviction to allow for a pre-sentencing report to be prepared by the Department of Probation. This report provides background on the defendant and makes a sentencing recommendation.
The Queens Criminal Court has dedicated court parts just for domestic violence cases. This allows judges to gain expertise in these complex cases involving family relationships.
Specialized DV courts handle cases from arraignment through trial and sentencing. The goal is to enhance victim safety and hold offenders accountable through close court monitoring.
People issued desk appearance tickets or criminal summons for minor offenses appear in the Summons Parts. These are for low-level crimes where the person is not taken into custody initially.
The process is less formal than a regular arraignment part. Many summons cases end up getting dismissed or pleaded out to minor violations.
Teens ages 16-18 sometimes appear in the special Adolescent Diversion Parts. The focus here is rehabilitation rather than just punishment.
Diversion programs are available including counseling, community service, job training and more. If the teen completes the program, charges are often dismissed.
There are a number of important court services located right in the Queens Criminal Courthouse including:
There are also a number of programs and services right in the courthouse including counseling, drug treatment, anger management and more. These can be part of plea deals or sentences.
Court records like motions, decisions, sentences, and transcripts are maintained by the Queens County Clerk’s Office located right in the courthouse. You can request copies by mail or in person for a per page fee.
The Principal Court Reporter’s Office handles transcript requests. Transcripts cost $4.50 per page. It takes a few weeks to get them.
In most cases, criminal trials and hearings are open to the public. Anyone can sit in the gallery and watch the proceedings. However, the judge can close the courtroom in certain cases.
There’s usually a court officer or deputy at the entrance checking bags and requiring people to go through metal detectors. Make sure not to bring weapons, pepper spray, or large knives into the courthouse.
It’s good courtroom etiquette to dress appropriately and be quiet during proceedings. Turn your phone off and don’t record video or audio without permission.
You can check the court calendar or call the court clerk to find out exact court dates and times for specific cases.
There are a few options for getting to Queens Criminal Court:
Give yourself extra time to get through security lines when entering the courthouse.
The Queens Criminal Court handles an extremely high volume of cases each year. The courthouse itself can seem big and confusing to navigate. Having an experienced criminal defense lawyer by your side who knows the ins and outs of the court makes a huge difference.
If you ever find yourself involved in a case there, remember to stay calm, dress appropriately, be respectful, and let your lawyer handle the talking. With the right legal representation, you can achieve the most favorable outcome possible.
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