Chief Judge Janet DiFiore has issued a stay on all pending criminal cases in New York during the Coronavirus outbreak - What does this mean for you?

Judge DiFiore’s Order adjourning all pending court appearances for at least forty-five days due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

In Westchester County, two duty court parts have been set up to handle all the criminal matters in Westchester County during this period. One of these parts will hear all the pending County Court matters, while the other part will hear all local court matters including all new arraignments on felonies and misdemeanors. Courtrooms are located on the first floor of the Westchester County Courthouse at 111 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, White Plains, New York 10601.

Moving forward, any new arrest in Westchester County for most misdemeanor and non-violent felony offenses will result in the arresting officer issuing the defendant a desk appearance ticket and the arraignment will be held in the following sixty days. Arrests for violent felonies, sex offenses, and qualifying offenses will be processed by the arresting officer and the defendant will be immediately transported for their arraignment in Westchester County Court. For a list of all such qualifying offenses, please see: https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/laws/CPL/530.40. In pending cases, if an emergency arises which requires immediate relief (such as a bail application for changed legal circumstances), we will contact either the misdemeanor or felony duty judge, who will hear our client’s emergency application.

In New York City, the same procedures are being applied as in Westchester, however, for arraignments and emergency applications the defendant will appear by video conference and only the judge, defense attorney, and prosecutor will be physically present in the courtroom.

The effect this order has on speedy trial is unclear at this point. After arraignment, the District Attorney is required to state ready for trial within ninety days for Class “A” Misdemeanors and six months for felonies (C.P.L. § 30.30). However, since the delay of all pending cases is attributable to the Coronavirus outbreak, these may be considered exigent circumstances, which would toll speedy trial while Judge DiFiore’s Order is in effect.

However, the Order should not affect speedy trial on new cases or a defendant’s rights under C.P.L. § 180.50, which requires a felony hearing take place within six days of a felony arrest when bail is set to keep the defendant incarcerated. That said, there is always the possibility that the assigned duty judge could issue a good cause extension for the either the felony hearing and/or subsequent grand jury proceedings (usually required within forty-five days of the felony hearing), as no grand jurors are being empaneled during the Coronavirus outbreak.

Despite all the uncertainty during this crisis, nothing will stop the Portale Randazzo team from aggressively defending our client’s constitutional rights. We will work diligently to protect you and keep you informed through these difficult and uncertain times, always placing your rights and interests first.

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