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Criminal Justice System: How It Works

The criminal justice process is complex, and often can be confusing to persons not familiar with criminal law.  This arrest-to-sentence guide and legal glossary are designed to explain and clarify the criminal justice process in New York County.

The District Attorney's Office

What does the District Attorney's office do when someone is arrested?

In most cases, an Assistant District Attorney in the Complaint Room (ECAB) will review the facts with the arresting officer and sometimes with the complainant or other witnesses.  The ADA will then determine the sufficiency of the evidence to support the charges originally brought by the police, determine the final charges, and draft the complaint upon which the defendant will be prosecuted.  The complaint must allege facts providing reasonable cause to believe that the person charged committed specific offenses.  In some instances, after evaluating the evidence, the District Attorney's Office will decline to prosecute a case.  A case is ready for arraignment when the complaint has been filed, the defendant has been interviewed by the attorney, and the defendant's criminal history is available.

What is the function of the District Attorney?

The District Attorney's Office represents the People of the State of New York in bringing charges against a suspect in a court of law.  The New York County District Attorney's Office has the responsibility and authority to investigate and prosecute crimes in the borough of Manhattan. Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., who was elected by the residents of Manhattan, is the District Attorney.  The approximately 550 attorneys who work in his office are called Assistant District Attorneys (ADAs).