How long does a criminal case take?


The length of a case varies greatly from case-to-case.   A case that has complex issues, many defendants, many witnesses or extensive legal matters can take considerably longer than a simple misdemeanor or violation.   On average, it will take about 1 year from the time a person is arrested until the trial.   Of course, the case can be dismissed or plea bargained at any time.   You can follow the progress of your case by using the tables below.

Felony cases

Misdemeanor & Violation cases



FELONY CASES
Step Explanation Time Range
Arrest You may be arrested prior to a Grand Jury being held or after a Grand Jury has made its finding.   Either way, you may or may not want to testify at a Grand Jury or to waive a Grand Jury.   This is something to address with your lawyer.  After your arrest you will either be taken into custody and held for arraignment or issued a Desk Appearance Ticket (DAT) telling you when and where to appear for arraignment. Anytime within the Statute of Limitations
Arraignment Arraignments take place between 9 am and 1 am at the criminal courthouse at 215 E 161st St, Bronx, NY 10451.   At the arraignment you will be told what the charges against you are and given certain notices about whether the prosecution intends to use statements made by you, release any property which might be used as evidence, whether there will be a Grand Jury and whether there was a witness identification.   The Judge will also set bail at the arraignment.   It is absolutely essential that you have a lawyer at your arraignment.   You can either hire a private lawyer or use the court appointed lawyer for your arraignment.   It is customary for your lawyer to "waive the reading" of the formal charges, and your lawyer may advise you to waive a Grand Jury or extend the time to hold the Grand Jury. 0-36 hours after arrest
Preliminary Hearing The prosecutor can elect to have a Preliminary Hearing or go straight to Grand Jury if you have not waived these at your arraignment.   It is rare that a prosecutor will use a Preliminary Hearing rather than a Grand Jury.   Usually it would mean that the prosecutor feels that she/he has a strong case and wants to use the hearing to convince you to take a plea bargain.   Even if the judge finds there is no probable cause to continue with the felony charge, the prosecutor can still present the case to a Grand Jury and get an indictment. 5-6 days after the arraingment
Grand Jury If you are arrested before a Grand Jury proceeding, you will have the option to waive a Grand Jury at your arraignment.   Although most defendants waive the Grand Jury, this is a serious decision that should be discussed with your lawyer.   If not waived, your lawyer will usually preserve your right to testify at the Grand Jury and then you can make the decision to testify or not.   The Grand Jury is a very one sided presentation of the case by the prosecution which usually results in an indictment of at least some charge.   If the Grand Jury does not indict you, the charges against you will be dismissed. within 6 days of the arraignment if not waived or extended
Arraignment on Indictment Pretty much the same as the original arraignment except the charges will be those handed down by the Grand Jury in the indictment.
0-36 hours after the indictment by the Grand Jury
Motions/Hearings Before your case goes to trial there are likely to be one or more motions and/or hearings.   Most of these will be on evidence issues such as not allowing (surpressing) witnesses or evidence obtained in violation of your Constitutional rights.   Other motions may attempt to dismiss your case on grounds such as failing to provide a speedy trial.   These motions and hearings can delay your case for quite some time. 3 months to 2 years
Trial In all felony cases you have a right to a trail by jury.  There are times, however, that your lawyer may suggest that you waive your right to a jury trial and take a trial by a judge alone.  A non-jury trial can take as little as one day.   A jury trial will typically take from 4 days to 2 weeks depending on the number of witnesses and legal issues involved.   Very complex cases can take months. 1-14 days
Pre-Sentence Investigation For felony convictions there must be a thorough pre-sentence investigation.  The pre-sentence report will include the details of the crime, your criminal, social, employement, education and family history, in some cases a medical or psychological examination and Victim Impact Statements in most cases.   This information must be provided to the judge before sentencing can take place.   If it appears that the sentence will be for a term of probation, the judge can adjourn the sentencing for up to a year and place you on probation supervision before sentencing, if everyone agrees. 1 to 12 months after conviction
Sentencing Your formal sentencing will take place after the pre-sentence investigation takes place.   You may be held in custody, placed on probation or given bail pending sentencing. 1 to 12 months after conviction


MISDEAMEANOR & VIOLATION CASES
Step Explanation Time Range
Arrest When you are arrested you will either be taken into custody and held for arraignment or issued a Desk Appearance Ticket (DAT) telling you when and where to appear for arraignment. Anytime within the Statute of Limitations
Arraignment Arraignments take place between 9 am and 1 am at the criminal courthouse at 215 E 161st St, Bronx, NY 10451.   At the arraignment you will be told what the charges against you are and given certain notices about whether the prosecution intends to use statements made by you, release any property which might be used as evidence and whether there was a witness identification.   The Judge will also set bail at the arraignment.   It is absolutely essential that you have a lawyer at your arraignment.   You can either hire a private lawyer or use the court appointed lawyer for your arraignment.   It is customary for your lawyer to "waive the reading" of the formal charges at the arraignment. 0-36 hours after arrest
Motions/Hearings Before your case goes to trial there are likely to be one or more motions and/or hearings.   Most of these will be on evidence issues such as not allowing (surpressing) witnesses or evidence obtained in violation of your Constitutional rights.   Other motions may attempt to dismiss your case on grounds such as failing to provide a speedy trial.   These motions and hearings can delay your case for quite some time. 3 months to 2 years
Trial In all but the most petty cases you have a right to a trail by jury.   There are times, however, that your lawyer may suggest that you waive your right to a jury trial and take a trial by a judge alone.  A non-jury trial can take as little as one day.   A jury trial will typically take from 4 days to 2 weeks depending on the number of witnesses and legal issues involved.   Very complex cases can take months. 1-14 days
Pre-Sentence Investigation For Misdemeanors a shorter verision of the pre-sentence investigation can be done.  The pre-sentence report will include the details of the crime, your criminal, social, employement, education and family history, in rare cases a medical or psychological examination and Victim Impact Statements in many cases.   This information must be provided to the judge before sentencing can take place.   If it appears that the sentence will be for a term of probation, the judge can adjourn the sentencing for up to a year and place you on probation supervision before sentencing, if everyone agrees. 1 to 12 months after conviction
Sentencing Your formal sentencing will take place after the pre-sentence investigation takes place.   You may be held in custody, placed on probation or given bail pending sentencing. 1 to 12 months after conviction