The hierarchy and procedures of criminal courts in Westchester County varies greatly from their counterparts in Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens and throughout New York City. Rather than a centralized lower court, the Criminal Court, as in New York City, each municipality throughout Westchester County has its own local court where misdemeanors and unindicted felonies are heard. These local courts each have their own local elected judges, court staff, procedures and other nuances. Some courts hear cases exclusively in the evenings, some in the mornings, some only once per month, and others run all day every day. If you are charged with a crime in Westchester County, having an attorney who is familiar with the unique intricacies of the justice system in the County, and the local procedures and quirks of the many local Justice Courts can have a huge impact on your case.
These local courts are all generically referred to as Justice Courts, but they can go by different identifying titles, such as the Greenburgh Town Court, Elmsford Village Court, or White Plains City Court. Whatever title the particular court may go by, they essentially all have the same function. These courts handle traffic infraction cases and speeding tickets, they handle misdemeanor cases from arrest to sentence, and they handle felony cases unless and until those cases are indicted and are accordingly transferred to County Court in White Plains.
This can create a difficult system to manage for any person charged with a criminal offense, for any criminal defense attorney, and even for the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office. In light of this, the Westchester DA’s Office has local branch offices that are each responsible for handling the criminal cases in the various local Justice Courts of a particular region of the County. Those branch officers are Mt. Vernon, Yonkers, New Rochelle, Rye, White Plains, Greenburgh, Yorktown which covers Peekskill as well as other towns and villages, and Northern Westchester which covers Mount Pleasant, North Castle, Mount Kisco, Pound Ridge, Lewisboro, Somers and North Salem.
A lawyer who is familiar with the dynamics of this complex system, and the unique practical difficulties and complications this network of Justice Courts can create, will be able to effectively guide you and advise you on the best choices to make throughout the course of your criminal case.
This blog entry is not an attempt to substitute for an examination of your particular case by your own criminal defense lawyer who will determine what is best for your case. Instead, this entry can give you the foundation to better understand the local courts in Westchester County. To better understand crimes, possible defenses, and how you can best protect yourself, consult with your criminal lawyer.