Charging Instruments and Other Paperwork

Trial court for state felonies. There are branches in each county (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx, Putnam, and Westchester).

Complaint

A formal charge sworn to by a police officer or other law enforcement authority. Whenever a person is arrested a complaint is filed which states what the charge is — i.e. why the person was arrested. This is usually the starting point for the defense attorney's investigation of the case.

Indictment

A formal charge handed down by a grand jury. Indictments are required only in felony cases.

Affidavit

A sworn written statement, sometimes filed with a complaint, setting forth the charges in more detail.

''Sworn''

A sworn written statement, sometimes filed with a complaint, setting forth the charges in more detail.

Rap Sheet

A computer printout of a person's past crimes. In New York, rap sheets are maintained by the state Division of Criminal Justice Services.

Search Warrant

A piece of paper signed by a judge permitting the authorities to search a particular place. The search warrant generally must be supported by an affidavit which sets forth the basis for an officer's belief that evidence might be found at the place to be searched. If a person's home or office is searched pursuant to a search warrant, he or she should generally cooperate with the search, not answer any questions, request a copy of the warrant and any supporting documents, and contact a criminal defense attorney right away.

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