Problem-Solving Courts

Specialty courts, often referred to as “problem-solving courts” or “community courts,” have become more and more prevalent in New York and throughout the nation during recent years. These courts are flexible in structure, and can be created to address many difference kinds of individual and/or community issues. These courts can be designed to address drug use, mental health, prostitution, “quality of life” offenses such as graffiti or trespassing , and more. These courts often incorporate various forms of alternatives to incarceration, such as addiction treatment, mental health treatment, education, community forums, and other forms of support. Some common problem-solving courts are:

1. Youth Courts: These courts often incorporate both family court and criminal court remedies and functions to arrive at appropriate resolutions for young people who find themselves in the criminal justice system.

2. Integrated Domestic Violence (IDV) courts: These courts were established based on the concept that family members often find themselves on opposite sides of criminal and family court matters simultaneously and repeatedly, and that it is appropriate to have a single court and a single judge hearing and deciding on all the cases and issues. Cases in the IDV court can be extremely complex, and fraught with personal histories and unique relationship dynamics. By having one judge who is informed and familiar with all of the issues in the particular family situation, criminal and otherwise, the process should be more efficient and the outcomes more appropriate.

3. Drug Treatment Courts: There are often separate drug treatment courts to handle felony and misdemeanor charges, but they will typically operate in a similar fashion. Generally, speaking drug courts operate by allowing non-violent offenders to enter into an agreement with the treatment court whereby the defendant pleas guilty, is subject to many terms and conditions, enters into drug treatment on an in-patient or out-patient basis (whichever is deemed appropriate given the circumstances), continues that treatment for a long period of time (usually between 6 months and 2 years), and is given the opportunity to receive a reduced charge or no criminal conviction at all if he or she successfully completes the treatment program.

4. Mental Health Courts: These courts typically operate in much the same way as drug treatment courts, with the difference that these courts are instead designed to help defendants with mental illness. These courts often have a judge who specializes in handling cases of this kind, highly trained and specialized support staff and resource coordinators, and even prosecutors and defense attorneys who specialize in handling cases involving mental health issues. These courts monitor defendants very closely, and typically collaborate closely with the community, local mental health service providers and social service providers.

This blog entry is not an attempt to substitute for an examination of your particular case by your own criminal defense or Family Court lawyer who will determine what is best for your case. Instead, this entry can give you the foundation to better understand problem-solving courts in New York State.

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Desk Appearance Tickets

If you are arrested by the police, they may take you directly before a judge after going through the book process. At that court appearance, you will likely be arraigned, and the judge will decide on whether to release you on your own recognizance or set bail. However, another possibility is that instead of being brought directly before a judge, you will go through the booking process, released, and given a document that specifies future date for your first court appearance. That document is called a Desk Appearance Ticket, or DAT.

DATs are typically issued for lower level offenses, and to those without a significant criminal history. The Desk Appearance ticket directs you to appear before a judge on a specific date and time, usually two weeks to a month from the date the DAT is issued. That first court appearance will essentially be exactly the same as if you had been brought directly before a judge following your arrest. However, there is one important difference. If you are issued a DAT, and you appear in court on the specified date as required, this should greatly increase your chances of being released on your own recognizance, or at least of having minimal bail set by the judge. For the most part, this is because you have already demonstrated to the court that you will appear when required by showing up on your DAT return date. This is a powerful show of good faith on your part, and can help your case in several other intangible ways as well.

You should know that being given a DAT does not change the level or seriousness of the offense with which you have been charged. A petit larceny charge is the same, whether you are taken directly before a judge and held in on $10,000 bail, or given a DAT and released on your own recognizance. A criminal charge is a serious thing that can have long-lasting implications. You should have an experienced criminal law attorney at your side who can guide you through this process, and ensure that your rights are protected throughout.

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 Desk Appearance Tickets in New York State.

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Refusing a Breathalyzer in New York, Considerations and Consequences

When most people think about DWI, DUI or drunk driving offenses, they assume that one of the major consequences of a guilty plea or a guilty verdict after trial is that their driver’s license will be suspended or revoked for a long period of time, along with the possibility of jail, fines and probation. What many people don’t realize, and what is counter-intuitive given the presumption of innocence in our criminal justice system generally, is that your license will often be suspended while the prosecution is still pending, well before your guilt has been proven or you have even had a chance to contest the case in any meaningful way.

One of the ways this kind of suspension can happen is if you refuse to take a breath test, colloquially referred to as a breathalyzer. This can happen in the context of being asked to blow into a portable breath test device, or PBT, or being asked to blow into the larger and more accurate Intoxilyzer back at the police precinct.

New York’s Vehicle and Traffic Law, or VTL, contains a provision that clearly establishes that you have the right to decline to take such a breath test that would determine your blood-alcohol content, or BAC. However, that same statute also makes it clear that your refusal to submit to the test will result in the immediate suspension of your driver’s license and driving privileges in New York, provided that you were appropriately advised of your rights and the consequences of your refusal. What’s more is that in New York, unlike many other states, your refusal to take the breath test can be used against you at a subsequent trial to prove your intoxication.

People often ask experienced criminal attorneys, “When I get pulled over, should I blow or not?” Unfortunately, there is no clear answer to this question. Your ability to refuse is an important right, but exercising that right comes with what can amount to a very serious consequence for some. If you are ever put in the position in which you have to make that decision, many thoughts will surely be rushing through your mind: “How many drinks did I have?”; “How long ago did I stop drinking?”; “Do I want law enforcement to have this kind of scientific evidence that they could use against me?”; “Do I trust the accuracy of this machine?”; “When is the last time they calibrated the machine?”; “How will it look if I refuse?”; and “How will I get to work if my license is suspended for refusing?”

Unfortunately, you will typically not be given the opportunity to consult with an attorney before making this critical decision. You typically will not even be given much of an opportunity to consider your choices carefully. However, no matter what decision you did make, it’s imperative that you consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney who understands the reality and the context of how these kinds of decision get made, and who understands the complexities of these various breath test devices.

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 implications of refusing a BAC breath test in New York State.

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