The legal work of the Manhattan District Attorney's Office is divided among the Trial Division, Investigation Division, and Appeals Bureau. The Trial and Investigation Divisions are subdivided into specialized Bureaus and Units.
The Trial Division has principal responsibility for prosecuting misdemeanor and felony crimes. It is comprised of six trial bureaus, and a number of specialized bureaus and units which target certain types of crimes or have other specialized knowledge, training and experience.
The trial bureaus are each staffed by approximately 50 Assistant District Attorneys of varying levels of experience. In addition to the legal staff and supervisors, each bureau has a bureau administrator, investigative analysts and paralegals.
After a comprehensive training program, first-year Assistant District Attorneys begin by handling misdemeanor prosecutions in Criminal Court, including a wide variety of cases such as misdemeanor assault, driving while intoxicated, drug possession, and theft offenses. As assistants gain experience, they handle more serious felony cases in Supreme Court. These cases include homicides, shootings, stabbings, sexual assaults, burglaries, assaults, drug and gun possession, robberies, and other types of violent crime.
Assistants in the Trial Division prosecute cases vertically. This means that they are assigned cases immediately after arrest and are responsible for those cases to final disposition by trial or plea. This vertical prosecution system means that one prosecutor will usually stay with the case from start to finish, better serving the victims, witnesses and law enforcement officials involved in the prosecution of crime. For more information on the criminal justice process, see Arrest to Sentence.
Felony assistants in the specialized bureaus and units develop expertise in certain types of crimes, involving sex crimes, child abuse, domestic violence, elder abuse, cybercrimes, identity theft, hate crimes, vehicular crimes, and other serious violent crime.
The Trial Division also handles public assistance fraud, litigation surrounding psychiatric evaluations, landlord-tenant narcotics evictions, as well as a crime strategies unit that identifies groups and individuals most responsible for committing crimes in our communities.
The Investigation Division of the New York County District Attorney’s Office is a recognized leader in white collar and organized crime prosecutions. Within our jurisdiction lies one of the world’s centers for global trade and finance. This has led to a role for the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office that is unusual for a local prosecutor. Because so many of the world’s financial transactions pass through New York’s markets, we have jurisdiction to pursue cases that other local prosecutors cannot. Indeed, one of our core philosophies is that the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has an obligation to police the financial markets to root out fraud. We accomplish this by launching proactive investigations that target individuals and entities who misuse our financial institutions for illicit purpose, or whose conduct undermines the integrity and stability of our financial institutions and markets. International money laundering, investment and securities fraud schemes, frauds perpetrated on the markets themselves, and cybercrime and computer security threats are a few such areas.
Because of our geographic jurisdiction, we are able to bring cases addressing criminal conduct anywhere in the United States or around the world that make use of New York’s financial institutions. Our cases targeting the use of New York banks to defeat economic sanctions by rogue regimes and foreign banks are examples of the scope of our jurisdiction and the application of our broad mandate. Since 2009, three cases involving three large international banks have led to the seizure of more than $1.1 billion. Beyond the funds recovered, these cases have changed practices in international banking, and have helped make us more secure against the threats of terror finance and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
The Investigation Division also investigates and prosecutes more localized and traditional cases involving fraud and corruption, ones that protect the lives and livelihoods of the citizens who live, work, and play in the world’s greatest city. Here too, the efforts of the Investigation Division have an impact on the lives of our citizens. We handle certain white-collar cases that are typical of many big-city district attorney’s offices, including embezzlement, insurance fraud, credit card and check fraud, and other forms of theft. But our portfolio of cases is more extensive, matching the size and complexity of the city we protect. These cases not only recover compensation for victims and large monetary penalties, but they also save billions of dollars in collateral economic costs for all New Yorkers. In this regard, we target such diverse areas as construction fraud, concrete and construction testing fraud, mortgage fraud, organized crime, tax fraud, public benefit fraud in housing, Medicaid, and public assistance, as well as medical insurance fraud and environmental crimes. These investigations also protect our most vulnerable and powerless citizens, through the creation of specialized units to handle fraud against the elderly and against immigrant populations. We are committed to handling all cases in these areas, no matter how big or how small.
Appeals Bureau attorneys provide New York’s appellate courts and all federal courts with in-depth written and oral analyses of legal and factual issues arising in a full range of criminal prosecutions, ensuring that properly-obtained convictions are upheld and that no defect in the trial-level proceedings unduly affects either the public or the accused. Our attorneys excel in the specialized research and advocacy skills demanded by the most highly respected appellate courts in the nation, appearing regularly in the New York Court of Appeals, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and, occasionally, the U.S. Supreme Court.
Under New York law, every convicted defendant has a right to an appeal, at which he may seek to have the conviction overturned based on some legal error or other defect in the trial court proceedings. Once the defendant has identified the grounds upon which he wishes to challenge his conviction or sentence, a member of the Appeals Bureau thoroughly reviews both the proceedings in the trial court and the relevant legal authorities, submits a brief to the appellate court, and then argues the appeal, typically before a panel of five judges. The loser of the first round of appellate litigation usually seeks to take the case to the highest court in New York, the Court of Appeals. On occasion, a case in which the legal issues implicate the U.S. Constitution or other federal laws makes its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Our appellate practice extends to many other types of proceedings. For example, Appeals Bureau attorneys represent New York in federal courts at all levels in responding to habeas corpus petitions. Our attorneys also represent the People in New York’s appellate courts in response to collateral attacks on convictions under state law. We initiate appeals when trial-level courts dismiss charges or suppress evidence in the absence of valid legal grounds for doing so. And, because of the appellate courts’ high regard for our work, organizations that wish to share their views with appellate courts as amici curiae often call upon our attorneys to prepare submissions in important cases in which we would not otherwise be involved.
Finally, although most of our effort is devoted to defending criminal convictions against attempts to overturn them, we are always mindful of the prosecutor’s duty to advance the cause of justice. Thus, where it appears that the defendant has been unfairly prejudiced by some error in the proceedings leading to his conviction, the Appeals Bureau forthrightly acknowledges the defect and advocates a remedy that will effectively redress it without unduly harming the public.