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New York City reaches arrest-to-arraignment time goal

In 1991, the New York State Court of Appeals ruled that arraignments in criminal court should take place within 24 hours of the arrest in order to meet the U.S. Supreme Court’s determination that arraignment hearings should occur “without unnecessary delay.”

For years, the 24-hour time frame seemed simply unrealistic for New York City courts, which processed around 225,000 arrests in 2013. But a judge who was put in charge of the arraignment courts two years ago was able to use new computer software and old scanners to make it a reality.

For the first time since 2001, arrest-to-arraignment times have been cut down dramatically in all five of New York’s boroughs, according to a recent report from The New York Times.

Each of the boroughs now averages an arrest-to-arraignment time of less than 24 hours, including Brooklyn and the Bronx, which once had notoriously long wait times.

In fact, before the changes were made to speed up the process, many suspected criminals spent a full day and night in jail before going before a judge, even in cases that weren’t severe enough to require a bond such as drunk driving.

The judge who spearheaded the computer-based case-tracking program had previously served as a first deputy commissioner in the Police Department, so he knew first-hand how difficult the 24-hour goal seemed at the beginning.

Essentially, the system holds all interested parties, including judges, clerks, police officers prosecutors and defense lawyers, accountable for meeting case deadlines. It also allows the court to see when certain steps in the process are causing delays.

However, even though a lot of headway has been made at speeding up arraignments, the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union said the city still has a lot of work to do in order to better-protect the rights of suspected offenders.

“This doesn’t mean the problem is solved by a long shot,” the executive director told The New York Times.

Source: The New York Times, “New York Courts Cut Time Between Arrest and Arraignment,” James C. McKinley Jr., March 19, 2014