Common Accusatory Instruments in Criminal Law

An Accusatory Instrument is a document that is used by prosecutors  and the Criminal courts to charge  and prosecute someone accused of a crime . A violation is not a crime  but is still a violation of the penal law. Crimes can be either   for lesser offenses  (misdemeanors) or for more serious offenses, a felony. Crimes have different degrees of severity depending on the seriousness of the crime and sometimes on whether it is a second or more instances of the  crime committed by the same person.  A crime in the first degree is the most serious  and 2nd and 3rd degree etc. are less serious.

Misdemeanors can be unclassified or classified as  an “A ” misdemeanor or a ” B ” Misdemeanor , with A being  the more serious and B the less serious. An A misdemeanor carries a maximum  period of incarceration ( jail/prison ) of up to 0ne year. A defense attorney may be able to negotiate a plea bargain  and obtain a no jail promise with or without community service, with or without probation  ( maximum probation  for A misdemeanor is 3 years ). A case could possibly be dismissed if there is a defect in the accusatory instrument or other procedural matter. Also in some cases an ” ACOD ” ( ACD in New York City ) which is  an adjournment of the case for a period of time ( usually 6 months ) in contemplation of  a dismissal of the case. What this means is that the case is given an adjourned date and in the meantime the defendant must not get arrested and must comply with any other conditions imposed as part of the ACOD ( such as not violating an Order of Protection if there is one in place against the defendant- which there may be especially in a dispute between boyfriend  and girlfriend or husband  and wife ). If the defendant is sucessful in complying with all conditions then  on the adjourned date the court will dismiss the case  and there is no appearance required in court by the defendant.

By definition a Felony is a crime for which the sentence carries the possibility of a period of incarceration of more than one year. Felonies  also come in different degrees of severity  and are also classified as “A”, “B”, “C”, “D”, “E” with “A” being the highest classification.

Typical Accusatory instruments for misdemeanors are: 1) Simplified Information ( usually traffic matters ), 2) Misdemeanor complaint which must be converted to a  3)Prosecutors Information ( conversion usually means  the addition of sworn affidavits containing non hearsay( what constitutes hearsay and its exception is a huge area and too complex for this article) allegations of the offense ( reciting the elements to be proved  of the offense  and the acts which the defendant did which meet the requirements of the  elements- if  a prosecutor can only prove some, but not all the elements then the case is dismissed  but the prosecutor may be able to recharge the defendant if he can meet all the elements ).Thus a simplified information, a misdemeanor complaint or prosecutor’s information are the main documents used to charge someone with the commisssion of a violation or crime of misdemeanor.

Typical Accusatory Instruments for felonies are: 1) a Felony Complaint or 2) an Indictment by the Grand Jury.  A felony complaint must be converted to an indictment in order to prosecute the case. There is also a document called an “SCI” which stands for Superior Court Information ( as opposed to a misdemeanor information in a district court – a Superior Court is usually the County Court or the Supreme Court. In order for an ” SCI” to be used,  the defendant must first sign in court  and on the record, another document called a ” Waiver “. This waiver waives  the defendant’s right to have the case presented to the grand Jury and have them return a verdict of a True Bill of Indictment and to then be prosecuted on that indictment and instead allow the prosecution to prosecute the case on the ” SCI “without the case going to the Grand Jury. An “SCI ” is generally used if there is a plea bargain agreed upon by Defendant, defendant’s counsel, the prosecutor  and the Court ( the Judge ).

Watch for future articles on Criminal Law Procedure  and  also Areas of  Civil Law.


About edwardddowlingivattorneyatlaw

Established my General Practice Law Firm in 1991 Criminal and Civil Litigation Trials and Appeals Federal and State courts Nassau and Suffolk Counties All 5 boroughs of NYC
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