Interviewer: Can you explain the different process for felonies and misdemeanors?
The Same Judges Will Not Hear Felony and Misdemeanor Cases
Stuart Austin: Normally there are two different levels of judges. There are judges who hear misdemeanors and then there are higher level judges who hear felonies. Sometimes it’s based on their experience. Sometimes it could be based on their prior knowledge. Other times, the judges are appointed by a governor or other state official.
The Long Island and New York City Areas Have Different Courts to Separate Felony Cases from Misdemeanor Cases
In all different counties, whether it’s Nassau County, Suffolk County or even the city, there’re usually held in two separate court rooms because there’s so many cases ongoing at the same time.
In Queens, the cases are held on a higher floor in a different area. In Suffolk they are actually held in two separate locations. In Nassau they are held closer together in Mineola and they try to separate the two of them by courtroom.
Interviewer: What is the process like for someone who is facing their first criminal offense?
Stuart Austin: You’ll be given a slip that notes the court in which you are appearing. You’ll be given a copy of the charges. You will discuss the charges with your attorney and he or she will explain what level they are and what you expect. Your attorney will explain if there is a possibility they will be reduced down to a different level. Your attorney will also remind where to go and what time you should arrive. That sounds very basic but it is an important detail and merits a reminder.
Attorney Austin Primarily Handles Cases in the Borough of Queens and in the Nassau and Suffolk County Areas
Interviewer: What courts nearest to you do you appear in the most?
Stuart Austin: Normally, I appear mostly in Queens, Nassau County and in Suffolk County at the District Court or the County Court. The courts in Suffolk are in Riverhead and in Central Islip, and in Nassau County they are located in Mineola and Hempstead, courts that I earlier mentioned are much closer together than the courts in Suffolk County.
Interviewer: This may sound like a very elementary question but do people know the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor? What do you have to explain to them regarding the differences between the charges?
Stuart Austin: Usually most clients do have an understanding of the difference. For some who is an immigrant, it’s interesting the way the Spanish interpreter explains it to Spanish speaking clients. This is because they try to do it in a very distinct way, is they call it the delito menor and delito mayor, meaning that’s what they say is that it is a minor charge and a major charge.
I imagine it’s a very simple way of looking at it. One is more of a minor charge with a lower degree of punishment, meaning the jail time is lower, the fines are lower; all things associated with it are lower. The other one is a more serious crime where the ramifications are increased. The jail time is higher, the fines are higher; there are more civil penalties and other things like that.