Aquittal:
This refers to a situation where the defendant is found not guilty.

ADA:
Abbreviation for Assistant District Attorney. This person is appointed by the District Attorney of a specific county and is responsible for the prosecution of a criminal matter.

Adjourn:
To postpone a matter to another date/time and possibly even another location.

Adjournment in Comtemplation of Dismissal (ACD) (ACOD):
In certain cases this may be offered to a defendant. This means that your case will be adjourned for a period of time (six months or one year for marijuana and family offenses). If, during that period, the defendant does not get arrested again, the case against him/her will be dismissed and he/she will be restored, by operation of law, to the position that he/she was in prior to their arrest. If however, the defendant commits a new crime, then the original case may be restored to the calendar and the defendant will need to face those charges.

Affidavit:
This is a sworn written statement which is taken in the course of a legal proceeding.

Affiant:
A person who swears to an Affidavit.

Arraignment:
This proceeding occurs after a defendant is arrested. At this time, the defendant will be brought in front a judge and a prosecutor to be informed of the charging against him or her. This is time where the Judge may or may not set bail while the criminal matter is pending. In most cases, defendants are arraigned within 24 hours of arrest, not including defendants who are given desk appearance tickets and told to appear at a later date.

Bail:
This is an amount of money (cash) or form of security (bond) which is required by a Judge to ensure that the defendant will appear in court when told to. In determining bail, a judge may consider several factors including but not limited to:

  1. Defendant’s county of residence and length of time living there;
  2. Defendant’s employment and education history;
  3. Defendant’s prior criminal record;
  4. Defendant’s prior warrant history;
  5. Strength of the case against him and severity of the charges.

Bench Warrant:
When a defendant fails to appear in Court when ordered to by a Judge (such as an adjourn date), the judge may issue a warrant for the defendant’s arrest. This means that if stopped by a police officer or customs/border agents the defendant will be arrested and taken into custody to answer to that warrant.

Complaint:
This is the document filed by law enforcement which begins a criminal action. The complaint must include the name of the defendant along with the section and name of the offense charged. These documents must be drawn up appropriately in order to proceed to trial on a misdemeanor case. On a felony, these documents typically provide little information and the formal charging instrument comes in the form of an indictment.

Complainant:
Often called a Complaining Witness or abbreviated C/W, this is the person who makes a complaint or files a formal charge in a court of law or with the Police Department.

Conditional Discharge:
After a plea, the Judge may sentence the defendant to a conditional discharge, often abbreviated as C/D. This means that the defendant must abide by certain terms set by the Court. This can be anything from community service, anger management, vocational training or payment of fines and surcharges. If the conditions are not, then the Judge can violate the defendant and re-sentence him/her to a jail or prison term.

Conviction:
A disposition of a case in which the defendant is found guilty by trial or plea.

Defendant:
The person alleged to have committed a crime that has been arrested and prosecuted on said offense.

Defense Lawyer:
This person represents the interests of the defendant in a criminal case and ensures that the defendant’s rights are not being violated. Mazzei & Polk, LLC are defense lawyers.

Desk Appearance Ticket (DAT):
Under the New York State Penal Law, certain offenses are eligible for issuance of a desk appearance ticket in lieu of holding a defendant in jail pending arraignment. This is a written notice (usually pink in color) which tells the defendant to appear in Court on a certain date. Sometimes the police will require a defendant to post what is called station house bail in order to release them on a DAT. This amount is determined by the police and is separate and apart from any bail that may be set at an arraignment before the Court. If a defendant does not appear for the arraignment, a bench warrant will be issued. See above for definition of Bench Warrant.

Dismissal:
The disposition of a case in which the charges against a defendant are removed. Only a judge can dismiss a case.

District Attorney:
The District Attorney is an attorney who is elected by the voters of a particular jurisdiction. The job of the district attorney is to represent the People of the State of New York in criminal proceedings against those accused of crimes. The District Attorney has many Assistant District Attorneys who work for him/her.

Docket Number:
Every criminal case that is pending or disposed of in the State of New York is assigned a docket number. This number is set by the Court system and allow the Court, the District Attorney and any member of the public to track a current case.

Felony:
Felonies are defined as criminal offenses in which a person may serve a sentence of a year or more in prison. These offenses vary in severity from E felonies to A felonies. Please see our sentencing chart to see possible sentencing guidelines in New York State.

Grand Jury:
In New York State, a Grand Jury is convened to sit for one month and hear various cases presented by prosecutors. They determined whether a felony has been committed and return True Bills (Indictment) or No True Bills. The Grand Jury may also conduct independent investigations and generate reports.

Hearsay:
This is testimony which is based upon out of court statements offered for the truth of the matter asserted. In plain terms, this is when testimony is presented based upon the reports of others and not on first-hand knowledge of the witness.Hung Jury:
After a trial, when the jury has heard all of the evidence and has been read the law, if they are unable to reach a unanimous verdict, they are considered to be hung jury. At that point, the district attorney may choose retry the case against you.

Indictment:
When a Grand Jury hears the evidence in a case and determines that there is enough evidence to sustain a charge, a written statement charging a party with the commission of a crime or other offense.

Judge:
This is a public official who is either appointed or elected to hear witnesses, examine evidence, and decide legal issues which arise during proceedings. They also preside over trials and hearings, decide motions, and conducts arraignments.

Misdemeanor:
Misdemeanors are offenses for which a term of 15 days to one year may be imposed. Misdemeanors are divided into two classes: “A” and “B.” Please see our sentencing chart to see possible sentencing guidelines in New York State.

Plea Bargaining:
This is the process by which a defense attorney and a prosecutor will engage in negotiations to attempt to dispose of a criminal matter. Generally, a plea bargain will mean that the defendant will have the benefit of pleading to a lesser charge or plead guilty to one charge in exchange for the dismissal of others. A Judge must approve the plea.

Probation Department:
This is the department in a particular county which is responsible for the supervision defendants who are placed on probation in lieu of imprisonment. This department also conducts pre-sentence investigations used by judges when determining sentences. Sometimes, a Judge will release a defendant to the custody of probation at arraignments. This means that instead of bail, the defendant will have to abide by the terms and conditions set forth by the probation department while the case is pending.

Released on Own Recognizance (ROR):
At arraignment, if the Court feels that the defendant is likely to make his court appearances as required, in lieu of bail or a release to probation, the Judge may release the defendant on his own.

Remand:
In serious felony matters, if it is determined that the defendant is a flight risk and is not likely to return to court to face the charges against him, the Court may remand the defendant to the custody of the sheriff and not allow him to post bail. Remand is not available in misdemeanor matters.

Trial:
A criminal trial is a formal examination of evidence before a court of law or a jury to determine whether a defendant is guilty of the charges brought against him beyond a reasonable doubt. At a criminal trial, the District Attorney bears the burden of proving each and every element of an offense charged beyond a reasonable doubt.

Unconditional Discharge:
After a plea, the Judge may sentence the defendant to an unconditional discharge, often abbreviated as U/C/D. This means that the court determined that the defendant can be released without any conditions. However, the defendant will still be responsible for payment of fines and surcharges to the Court.