How long a criminal case takes will vary based upon the nature of the charges, the number of people charged, where you are charged, the complexity of the case and the amount of discovery involved.   For a breakdown of your criminal case and an overview of the criminal process, please see the Criminal Defense Timeline on our homepage.

Timeline of a Criminal Defense Case

  • Whether you just made a big mistake, or are being falsely accused, this can be a very emotional and important time in a case
  • It is very important that you remain silent and not answer any questions about the case without a lawyer present

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  • Contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible
  • Confirm the lawyer is an experienced criminal defense lawyer
  • Meet with the lawyer who will help you understand the process of a criminal case

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  • If you have been arrested, critical proceedings and time frames begin immediately
  • You will appear before a judge who will determine if you will be incarcerated, released on bail or supervision, or released without conditions
  • If you are charged with a felony in a town, village or city court, the prosecuting agency will have six months from the date of your arrest to determine whether to present your case to a grand jury to seek an indictment or return your case to a lower court to be handled as a misdemeanor

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  • Discovery is the exchange of information between the governmental agency prosecuting you, you, and your attorney
  • In New York State this process begins shortly after your appearance in court
  • You can expect exchange of the following if it exists in your case:
    • Police Reports
    • Investigative Notes
    • Videos / Body Camera Footage / Dash Camera Footage
    • Forensic Reports
    • Photographs
    • Exculpatory Material (Brady)
    • Impeachment Material
  • You and your attorney may also be engaged in information gathering that includes:
    • Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) Requests/Responses
    • Additional Witness Interviews
    • Expert Evaluations / Disclosures

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  • Motions are written applications to the court to request any of the following:
    • Preclude Evidence
    • Suppress Evidence
    • Seek a Ruling on a Constitutional Rights Violation
    • Seek Outright Dismissal of One or More Charges Based on Legal/Factual Matters
    • Request Hearings

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  • A plea bargain is an offer from the prosecuting attorney to resolve your case
  • Whether to plead guilty or not is always a choice you get to make, not your attorney
  • Your attorney will meet with you, discuss the facts and the law of your case, and offer advice. A plea offer takes into consideration your charges as well as:
    • Prior criminal history if any
    • Life experiences
    • Evidentiary Problems
    • Post-Incident Actions
      • Mental Health Counseling
      • Substance Abuse Treatment
      • Anger Management Treatment

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  • If you choose not to accept a plea bargain and are heading to trial, there are likely to be hearings to consider the following:
    • Preclusion/Suppression of Evidence
    • Admissibility of Evidence
    • What Prior Criminal History/Bad Acts May Be Introduced by the Prosecutor if You Testify on Your Own Behalf
  • During a hearing, there is no jury, and the judge will make factual and legal determinations regarding what evidence will be allowed at trial.

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  • You have the right to a trial by a fair and impartial jury or by the judge who will act as both judge and jury
  • At a trial, the prosecution has the burden to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt
  • The judge or jury will listen to the evidence presented and the arguments by the lawyers, apply the facts to the law, and render a verdict of not guilty or guilty
  • A Verdict must be unanimous

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  • If you are convicted at trial, or if you entered a plea bargain, there will be a sentencing date where your punishment will be imposed by the judge
  • If you previously entered a plea bargain, the judge will likely impose the agreed upon sentence at that time

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  • In the event you are convicted, you have the right to appeal
  • This is true whether you plead guilty or are convicted after trial
  • However, by accepting a plea bargain, you may have waived some of your appellate rights
  • It is important that your attorney file a notice of appeal on your behalf and that you discuss the appeal process with your lawyer

Criminal Defense Attorneys Lawyers Lamarche Safranko Law Firm Albany NY