There are few things more frightful and concerning than being arrested in a nation where you do not reside. Compounding matters, because the United States has a unique criminal justice system, you may not have any idea about the arrest process and what you may face whether you were charged with a crime in New York City (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, etc.), White Plains or some other jurisdiction. Not only will you have to contend with collateral immigration issues of your arrest such as how to renew your visa (if you can), what will you do if you plan on leaving New York and returning home before your case is resolved? For example, if you are issued a Desk Appearance Ticket (DAT) to return to Manhattan Criminal Court weeks after you go back to your home nation, how will you avoid a Bench Warrant from being issued and an arrest upon your return to the United States? Even if you wanted to stay and fight your case, what will happen if you overstay your visa?
Before addressing the issues mentioned above, please note that this blog entry merely addresses misdemeanor crimes in New York and not felony offenses in the context of an arrest of a foreign national. Not only are felony crimes much more serious, but these crimes have a separate set of procedural rules that may not be applicable to their misdemeanor brethren. Having addressed that, some of the more common misdemeanor arrests that foreign nationals face and those I have defended against as a New York criminal lawyer have been shoplifting (Petit Larceny – New York Penal Law 155.25 and Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Fourth Degree – New York Penal Law 165.40), possession of drugs such as cocaine, heroin or other controlled substances (Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Seventh Degree – New York Penal Law 220.03), jumping a turnstile or failing to pay a cab driver (Theft of Services – New York Penal Law 165.15) and possession of a marijuana joint or pipe open to public view (Criminal Possession of Marijuana – New York Penal Law 221.10). Far from an exhaustive list, if you, as a foreign national, provided a local address, the NYPD officer who arrested you may have given you a Desk Appearance Ticket (DAT) for your return to court on a future date. You will not be processed through “the system” in the same manner as if you committed a felony or a similar misdemeanor without establishing ties to New York City.
In the event you were processed through the system without a DAT, you will need immediate representation by a New York criminal lawyer. Obviously, the reason for this is because you will see a judge within twenty-four hours, prosecutors may seek to take a statement to use against you (you have Miranda Rights, a/k/a the “right to remain silent”), and you will need to begin collecting evidence and building your defense as soon as possible. Further, should your visa be expiring or your trip in New York is scheduled to end before your next court date (assuming your case cannot be properly resolved at your first appearance), this is something that can be addressed with the judge. Depending on the facts and circumstances, the court may be accommodating, but at the same time, the court may ask that your passport be temporarily turned into prosecutors so you cannot leave the jurisdiction. Further the court may set bail. Too much to address here, having a criminal lawyer prepared to address bail and assist you in obtaining that bail may be critical.
In terms of the other set of crimes, those where DATs are issued, there may be a much easier way (that is a relative term) to handle these cases. If, for example, the marijuana you possessed was a small amount or the shoplifting involves property valued at one or two hundred dollars, an attorney may be able to appear on your behalf instead of spending the time and money to return to the United States. In such a case, your criminal lawyer may be able to not just appear, but resolve the case in your absence (there will certain paperwork that you will need to sign) or, at a minimum, avoid the issuance of a bench warrant. Without discussing all the variables, the criminal defense attorney you retain to represent you on your DAT in New York City for NY PL 155.25, NY PL 165.40, NY PL 165.15, NY PL 220.03 or NY PL 221.10, will likely need certain documents such as a copy of your visa, itinerary as to when you left the jurisdiction and, most importantly, a detailed letter addressing issues of law. This letter can be discussed with your attorney and ultimately be notarized and returned to him or her so it can be presented to the court. This letter is is an essential element to proper and successful representation in your absence.
Although no attorney can in any way guarantee what a judge will do in response to representations made by your counsel, the New York criminal lawyers at Saland Law PC routinely handle cases in this manner with foreign nationals and have successfully resolved them without the client appearing. Again, no lawyer can guarantee a particular outcome for you even with past success, but with the proper steps and experienced legal representation it can be done.
To better educate yourself on the arrest process in New York City, New York Desk Appearances Tickets and each of the crimes listed above, either follow the highlighted links (if there is one) or go to New-York-Lawyers.org where you can read substantive and informative, yet readable and brief, articles and web pages on these matters. Further information is available on the websites and blogs linked below.
Established by two New York criminal lawyers and former Manhattan prosecutors who served six and seven years respectively in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, Saland Law PC is a New York criminal defense representing clients in the New York City region and who have lectured before the staff of numerous consulates on issues of criminal law.