What to Expect During a Jury Deliberation

The criminal justice process can seem like a complex whirlwind of activity. It can be difficult to keep up. This can cause even more anxiety for a person facing criminal charges. One of the most important steps in the process is jury deliberation. This takes place after both sides have fully presented their cases and the jury goes to render a verdict. Here, we explain a bit more about what you can expect during a jury deliberation.

What to Expect During a Jury Deliberation

At the end of trial, after both sides have given closing arguments, the presiding judge gives jury instructions. These instructions inform the jurors as to the legal standards they are tasked with applying as they decide whether a defendant is guilty or not guilty. After jury instructions have been given, the jury convenes for deliberations.

Prior to deliberations, the jury selects a foreperson who is responsible for presiding over the deliberations and, when a verdict is reached, will deliver the verdict in the courtroom. After a foreperson is selected, deliberations commence as the jury goes through all of the evidence that was presented at trial. The foreperson works to focus the review and ensuing discussion. The foreperson also has the critical task of making sure all members of the juror are applying the jury instructions provided to them by the judge.

The jurors can take deliberation time to debate the evidence of the case. Jury members are not allowed to access any outside resources, including the internet. In fact, it is considered to be juror misconduct to consider evidence that was not presented at trial. Such misconduct will likely result in a mistrial and the case will have to be heard in totality by a new jury. Should anyone have questions requiring clarification, they may submit the question to the court to get further clarification.

Once all the evidence has been reviewed with care and the appropriate legal standards provided in the jury instructions have been applied, the foreperson calls for a vote on the verdict. Should a consensus be received from the vote, then the verdict is then delivered to the court. In most cases, the court provides the jury with written forms that have all possible verdicts on them. When the jury has arrived at a decision, the appropriate verdict form need only be selected from the pile.

Most criminal cases require a unanimous jury vote. Every federal case requires a unanimous decision. If the jury vote is split, the jury will continue to deliberate. Should the jury be unable to reach a consensus by the end of the day, they may be sequestered in some rare cases, which means they will be housed in a hotel and prohibited from contact with other people and news sources. Most of the time, the jury will just be sent home with instructions not to discuss the case with anyone and to avoid news reports on the case.

Should the jury be unable to render a verdict, it is deemed to be “hung.” This means there is a mistrial. Should the government wish to continue pursuing charges, then a new trial will be conducted before a new jury. In some cases, however, the government may decide not to pursue the charges any further.

Criminal Defense Attorneys

If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges, you most likely have many questions about the process. CDH Law is here with answers. You can count on our knowledgeable team of criminal defense attorneys. Contact us today.

What Factors Are Considered in Setting Bail?

Bail is a type of pre-trial restriction imposed upon a defendant to help make sure that they remain in compliance with the judicial process. Posting bail is often necessary in order to secure the conditional release of a defendant. Release on bail is made with the promise that the defendant will once again appear in court when it is required. Bail amounts are typically set by judges when the defendant makes his or her first appearance in court after the arrest. The judge usually has the discretion to stay with a standard bail amount according to posted bail schedules, set the bail higher or lower than standard bail, or deny bail altogether. In the alternative, the judge may choose to waive bail, release on the defendant’s own recognizance, or set other special conditions for the defendant’s release.

Considerations in Setting Bail

According to New York law, the court, in setting bail, must consider the type and level of control or restriction necessary to make sure that the defendant attends future court dates. In determining the extent of the bail restriction necessary to impose upon a defendant, a judge will usually consider things such as the seriousness of the alleged crime. It is pretty standard practice that a more serious criminal charge will result in a higher bail amount. This can be problematic in many situations, however, because police tend to arrest suspects on the most serious charges that the facts may possibly substantiate.

A judge will also usually consider the defendant’s criminal record and whether there are any outstanding warrants for the defendant. A significant criminal record will tip in favor of a higher bail amount. If there is an outstanding warrant for the defendant in another jurisdiction, it is a possibility that the judge will deny bail and keep the defendant in custody.

Essentially, a judge is evaluating the potential threat a defendant poses to a community if released and also the potential flight risk of the defendant. Factors such as the defendant’s criminal history and the charges the defendant currently faces go towards the potential threat to a community. Other factors focus more on the reliability of the defendant to reappear in court when required.

This is why a judge will look to the defendant’s ties to the community when setting bail. Those who are invested in their community are usually less likely to flee. They are also, incidentally, less likely to endanger others or perpetrate other crimes while out on bail. Ties to the community include things like relatives living in the area. A judge may still be stringent on setting bail regardless of community ties if the defendant has a history of missing court hearings or is a proven potential flight risk. For instance, if a defendant was apprehended while trying to evade law enforcement, he or she will usually be seen as a flight risk and a bail determination will reflect this accordingly.

Criminal Defense Attorneys

The criminal defense attorneys at CDH Law are here to fight for you right from the very beginning of criminal proceedings. We will be there, standing by your side, at your bail hearing and beyond. For strong legal counsel, you can depend on us. Contact us today.

What Is Voir Dire?

The road to a criminal trial is paved with many, detailed steps along the way. Many criminal cases never see trial as a plea bargain is reached prior to any formal trial proceedings taking place. Other times, the case ends up before a jury. Who comprises this jury depends on who is summoned for jury duty the day of jury selection and who makes it through voir dire.

What is voir dire?

Voir dire, a French phrase with Latin roots, means “to speak the truth.” During voir dire, potential jurors are questioned to see if any of them have any biases or prejudices that would disqualify them from serving. Voir dire is geared towards establishing a venire, a panel of potential jurors, who are competent and able to be fair in their service. It is an important process and one that must be carefully conducted. Errors during voir dire are commonly used as grounds for appeal.

Voir dire begins when the venire is assembled in the courtroom. The judge will ask questions aimed at helping to ensure everyone is legally qualified to serve. The venire will also be asked whether jury service would cause an undue hardship. The attorneys for both sides will be given the opportunity to question the jurors as well. The questions are designed to weed out any potential biases that might lead a juror to favor one side over the other.

There are limits to what kinds of questions the attorneys may ask. They must refrain from asking very personal questions. They must also refrain from asking jurors how they would decide the case.

After questioning the venire, the attorneys begin making their challenges. There are two types of challenges: challenges for cause and peremptory challenges. There is no limit on the number of challenges for cause an attorney may make. These types of challenges are reserved for jurors that are not qualified or able to serve in the case. In order to strike for cause, a specific reason must be stated.

With peremptory challenges, there is no need to provide a reason. Attorneys for both sides are given a limited number of peremptory challenges and these are usually used to excuse potential jurors the attorneys feel would, for some reason or another, decide unfavorably. While no reason for a peremptory challenge is required, an attorney cannot assert a peremptory challenge based on race or class. If the judge grants a challenge to a juror, the juror will be struck from the jury panel. Once challenges are completed, the judge will place the remaining jurors in the jury box to begin trial.

Criminal Defense Attorneys

While there are many steps in a criminal trial, every step has the potential to powerfully impact the defendant’s situation. Voir dire, for example, is oftentimes referred to as one of the most important parts of the criminal trial. The failure to effectively participate in voir dire can mean your case is over before it even starts. At CDH law, our team of dedicated criminal defense attorneys takes every step in the criminal process very seriously. We fight for our clients at every turn. Contact us today.

What to Expect at a Sentencing Hearing

A sentencing hearing is where the court orders the actual penalty for a defendant. It is one of the most important steps in the criminal justice process. Sometimes, the sentence will be the result of a pre-negotiated plea deal. Other times, the sentencing will rest solely in the hands of the judge. For most criminal offenses, the law establishes a range of punishment a defendant will face. Mitigating or aggravating circumstances will work to either increase or decrease the level of punishment received at a sentencing hearing.

What to Expect at a Sentencing Hearing

At the sentencing hearing, the guilt of the defendant is not at issue. It has already been established and the sole focus is on the level of punishment that should be imposed upon the defendant. The defense and the prosecution will both present arguments as to why the sentence should be increased or reduced. The judge will take into account factors such as the defendant’s criminal record, the details of the crime, the impact the crime had on the victim, and other relevant factors.

The first thing to happen at a sentencing hearing will be prosecution statements. The prosecution will make a sentencing recommendation to the judge. The recommendation will come with supporting reasons. The prosecution will usually reference evidence that was introduced at trial in order to support assertions pertaining to sentencing decisions.  In the typical scenario, the prosecution will argue for a more severe punishment while the defense will argue for a reduced sentence based on mitigating circumstances.

After the prosecution speaks, it will then be the defense team’s turn to present evidence and arguments as to why the sentence should be less severe. Mitigating circumstances such as a lack of criminal record or a defendant’s value to the community may work to achieve a less severe sentence. After the defense counsel addresses the court, the victim or the family of the victim may be granted the opportunity to speak. The defendant will also get an opportunity to speak to the judge towards the end of the hearing. The judge will consider all testimony before rendering a sentencing determination. A criminal sentence may include incarceration, fines, community service, probation, and more.

New York Criminal Defense Attorneys

A defendant’s sentencing hearing will have a huge impact on his or her life. The hearing is an opportunity to fight for a reduced sentence. With the right attorney, this can mean avoiding jail in favor of probation, it can mean community service over incarceration, or it can mean lower fines. There is a lot on the line at a sentencing hearing. Having an attorney by your side that will advocate on your behalf is critical at a sentencing hearing. At CDH Law, our dedicated team of criminal defense attorneys is committed to representing and advocating on behalf of our clients. Contact us today.


What Happens If There Is a Mistrial Due to a Hung Jury?

A criminal trial does not always end with a guilty or a not guilty verdict. Sometimes, a mistrial is declared. A mistrial is a trial that has essentially been deemed invalid due to an error that occurred in the proceedings or because the jury was unable to reach a consensus regarding the verdict. If the jury was unable to get enough votes for a verdict, this is referred to as a “hung jury.”

What Happens If There Is a Mistrial Due to a Hung Jury?

In a criminal trial, after both the prosecution and the defense teams have presented their evidence, the jury retires to private chambers in order to weigh all of the evidence and render a verdict. If the criminal case is being tried in federal court, then the jury must reach a unanimous verdict (this is also true of civil cases tried in federal court). If the criminal case is being tried in state court, then it might be different. Almost every state, however, requires that the jury in a criminal trial reach a unanimous verdict. This means that, in most criminal cases, when a jury cannot reach a unanimous decision, it is referred to as a “hung jury,” meaning there were not enough votes in favor of one verdict.

In the event of a hung jury, the judge may instruct the jury to deliberate further to see if they can reach a unanimous decision if given more time. In other cases, the judge may allow another hearing to be held where the jury is allowed to present a list of questions for the parties involved to answer. Sometimes, a judge may go straight to declaring a mistrial. If more time or more information for the jury does not lead to a unanimous verdict, the judge may then declare a mistrial.

After a mistrial has been declared due to a hung jury, the prosecutor has the option of considering how to proceed. In some cases, the prosecutor may end up dismissing the charges levied against the defendant. In other cases, a plea bargain may be reached after a mistrial has been declared. If neither of these things occur, the mistrial will end up leading to the defendant being tried on all of the same charges in another trial to be held at a later date. Double jeopardy does not apply in the event of a mistrial. This is because double jeopardy only applies when an individual has been convicted of a crime. Once convicted, the individual cannot be tried for the same crime. A mistrial, however, does not result in a conviction. Therefore, the individual can be tried once again.

New York Criminal Defense Attorneys

The criminal justice process can seem endless. While a mistrial is better than a guilty verdict, it can also be very frustrating. It means more uncertainty and more waiting. The determined criminal defense attorneys at CDH Law are here to provide you with rigorous legal counsel no matter where you are in the criminal justice process. Contact us today.

What to Expect During a Guilty Plea

If you have been charged with a crime, you will have to make a very big and very serious decision. This decision is whether or not you want to enter a guilty plea. There are many factors to take into account when making this choice. Hiring a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney as soon as possible is one of the best ways to protect yourself. If you choose to plead guilty, you should be aware of what to expect.

What to Expect During a Guilty Plea

A plea is the defendant’s response to criminal charges levied by the prosecutor during arraignment. In most cases, a defendant will enter a not guilty plea at arraignment, and a guilty plea only after thorough consultation with an attorney and extensive plea bargaining. It is rarely, if ever, advisable to admit guilt at your arraignment.  A plea bargain is a mutually agreed-upon arrangement between the prosecution and the defense where the defendant usually agrees to plead guilty, but to a lesser offense, a lesser sentence, or a lesser offense with a lesser sentence. In such a case, the prosecutor is able to secure a guilty plea and the defendant avoids being convicted of the more serious offense and/or being punished more severely. An overwhelming amount of criminal cases in the state of New York, and in states across the U.S., reach a resolution prior to trial through a negotiated plea deal.

It is important to understand what comes with a guilty plea. Every criminal defendant is constitutionally guaranteed the right to due process and a speedy jury trial. But when you enter a guilty plea before a judge, in open court, and under oath, you are waiving your right to a trial. This means that no judge or jury will decide the factual or legal issues of your case. You will have no opportunity to cross-examine witnesses in your case. You are admitting guilt and will skip right to receiving your sentence.

It is your decision alone whether to enter a guilty plea or not. Your lawyer is there to advise you, but nobody can force or direct you to plead guilty.  Once you enter a guilty plea, it is difficult to come back from. In rare cases, you may be able to file a motion to withdraw your guilty plea. Essentially, this means you are asking the judge for permission to take back your guilty plea. You may also be able to appeal your conviction, but only on narrow legal issues or where good cause is shown. Good cause for an appeal may be something like the defendant failed to understand the charges. Another good cause would be in cases where the defendant was not informed of their Constitutional rights, including the right to trial and the right to defense counsel.

New York Criminal Defense Attorneys

Entering a guilty plea is an important decision and can have serious implications for a criminal defendant. While it may be the best option for some defendants, it is not always the right way to go. If you have been charged with a criminal offense, talk to the dedicated criminal defense team at CDH Law. Time is of the essence with these matters. The sooner you discuss your legal rights and options with trusted criminal defense counsel, the better. These are decisions that will affect your future. They can affect how much you will pay in fines, how much jail time you face, and having a criminal record can affect your future ability to secure housing and gainful employment. Do not go it alone. Contact us today.

What to Expect During Arraignment

After an arrest, arraignment is the first step into the criminal process. In its most basic sense, arraignment is a court proceeding where a person accused of a crime is formally advised of the charges levied against him or her. The defendant is also asked to enter a plea. Arraignment is an important part of the process and happens quickly. While some facing low-level crimes may have an appearance ticket issued where arraignment will take place at a later stage, many will be detained for up to 24 hours before arraignment (although recent reforms made the appearance ticket much more common). Seek legal representation immediately to help expedite the process and protect your rights.

What to Expect During Arraignment

There are several things that will take place at the arraignment of a criminal defendant. First, if the defendant is deemed unable to afford an attorney, legal representation will be appointed. If the defendant has a private criminal defense attorney, that attorney will appear at arraignment with the defendant. All of the charges the defendant is facing will be read. In most instances, a formal reading of the charges is waived and the defendant’s attorney will receive a copy of the criminal complaint which will list the charges and the criminal laws that have been allegedly violated. It will also outline what facts are needed to support each charge.

The Assistant District Attorney (ADA) will also serve various notices at arraignment. One type of notice includes any alleged statements the defendant made to law enforcement. Another type of notice includes any non-law enforcement witnesses that have identified the defendant. Notices provide critical information regarding a defendant’s case. After notices have been provided, in a small number of cases the ADA may propose a resolution to the case. The proposed resolution may be a recommended sentence upon a plea or even an Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal (ACD). If a resolution cannot be reached at arraignment, which is most common, the ADA may go on to request bail (if authorized under the recent bail reforms).

If the defendant is being charged with a misdemeanor and the case is not resolved at arraignment, another court date will be scheduled. If the defendant is being charged with a felony, notice to the defendant of the prosecutor’s intent to present the case to the Grand Jury will often be provided at arraignment. If the Grand Jury later votes to indict the defendant, the case will go to County Court where another arraignment will be held on the indictment. At that arraignment, the criminal defendant will again be advised of the charges, asked to enter a plea, and the issue of bail will be addressed.  The court will often set a timeline for the case at the arraignment, including dates for discovery matters and motions practice.

Syracuse Criminal Defense Attorneys

When you have been accused of a crime, time is of the essence. Important things will happen in your case sooner rather than later. You need dedicated legal counsel by your side to help. Secure trusted criminal defense counsel as soon as possible. At CDH Law, we are here to fight for you against all criminal charges. Contact us today.

Recent Changes to Discovery and Bail Laws in New York

In 2019, New York lawmakers made it a priority to improve the state’s laws regarding bail and discovery. The changes brought about as a result of these efforts went into effect on January 1, 2020. The new bail law resulted in the expansion of pretrial freedom as well as significantly lowered the number of pretrial incarcerations across New York. The new discovery law grants those accused of crimes the ability to make better-informed decisions regarding their case and what evidence has been gathered against them.

The Changes to Discovery and Bail Laws in New York

The new discovery and bail laws passed in New York brought about some major changes to the State’s criminal justice system. One such major change is the fact that the new law mandates pretrial release without requiring money bail for those people charged with a qualifying offense. Prior to the new law, money bail could be required in any misdemeanor or felony case. But now, those charged with a qualifying offense, which includes most misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies, are required to be released without bail being set. There are some exceptions to this, however. Even if charged with a qualifying offense, the accused may be required to pay bail if he or she has a history of willfully failing to appear in court, violating an order of protection, or has shown other disqualifying behavior.

The changes to New York’s bail laws also include the requirement that judges issue other easier forms of payment of bail in cases where bail can be set. Prior to the changes in the law, judges set cash bail, requiring the payment of the full bail amount upfront, or insurance bond, requiring the use of for-profit bail bond companies. Under the new law, bail must be issued as an unsecured bond or a partially secured bond. These types of bonds are paid directly to the court. This means that the use of private insurance companies benefiting from the pretrial system is eliminated.

There were also major changes to New York’s discovery laws. In the past, those accused of crimes were kept from key information regarding their cases. This prevented them from making informed decisions about how to proceed with things such as evaluating plea deals. Under the new law, prosecutors are required to provide the accused with open file discovery. This must be done early on. In fact, prosecutors are required to provide the discovery within 15 days of arraignment. This time frame may be extended by 30 additional days if the discovery is exceptionally extensive or if the DA does not possess the requisite discovery materials despite good faith efforts. Additionally, prosecutors must give the accused full discovery before any plea offers are withdrawn.

New York Criminal Defense Attorneys

The changes to New York’s bail and discovery laws are much needed and long-awaited. Despite these changes, however, those accused of crimes in New York can very much feel like the system is stacked against them. Secure trusted criminal defense counsel with the experienced attorneys at CDH Law. We are here to defend our clients against any criminal charge they may face. Contact us today.


Defrauding the Government

Defrauding the government is a serious crime and one that carries serious penalties as well. A person accused of defrauding the government is essentially a public servant who looks as if he or she has violated a position of trust for personal gain. Prosecutors will zealously pursue a conviction for someone who stands accused of this felony crime. This is why retaining trusted criminal defense counsel right away is so important.

What is Defrauding the Government?

Defined by New York Penal Law 195.20, defrauding the government occurs when a public servant engages in a scheme with the intent to defraud the State of New York or government entity of the State of New York with ongoing conduct to obtain money or property from the government through false or fraudulent means or pretenses. The ill-gotten money or property must be valued in excess of $1,000. The property may include a wide range of things. It could even include things like furniture or electronic equipment. It is also important to note that, while New York Penal Law 195.20 requires that the ongoing conduct in the scheme be systematic, there are other potential crimes a person who allegedly takes property from the government may face such as Grand Larceny.

Crimes involving defrauding the government are often prosecuted by federal prosecutors. However, because the State of New York has its own defrauding the government statute, those accused of this crime can face prosecution by State prosecutors and face penalties laid out by State law. In New York, defrauding the government is considered to be a class E felony. This felony-level does not carry a mandatory minimum term of incarceration, but a judge would not hesitate much to impose a prison sentence on a defendant found guilty of such a crime. The maximum prison sentence carried by a class E felony is 4 years.

In addition to fines, imprisonment, and probation, those convicted of felonies in the State of New York face other, serious consequences. For instance, convicted felons automatically lose many rights held by U.S. citizens. A felony conviction will result in the loss of such civil rights as:

  • The ability to purchase a firearm
  • The power to vote
  • Eligibility for welfare benefits
  • Eligibility for Federally subsidized housing
  • Participating as a juror
  • Eligibility to obtain or retain certain professional and operator licenses

A felony conviction is also something you will likely need to report on job and housing applications jeopardizing your ability to obtain gainful employment and secure housing.

New York Criminal Defense Attorneys

The stigma of a felony conviction for defrauding the government will follow you indefinitely. It will follow you long after imprisonment, the imposition of fines, the completion of a probation period, and the suspension of some of your central civil rights. A criminal charge does not need to turn into a conviction. The dedicated criminal defense attorneys at CDH Law zealously advocate on behalf of our clients facing a wide range of criminal charges. We are here to fight for you. Contact us today.

Dukes Not Guilty of Sexual Assault

After a second trial, CDH Law obtained an acquittal for Sheldon Dukes, accused of predatory sexual assault in Watertown, New York.  He faced life in prison if convicted.  The judge took less than 30 minutes to issue his verdict.  In the previous trial, the jury could not agree and the result was a mistrial.  You can find coverage of the case here and here.