More than a third of the 360,000 people arrested in New York City in a 13-month period were jailed beyond the legal limit of 24 hours, says a New York Civil Liberties Union study reported by the New York Times. About 12,000 of those arrested, including people accused of jumping a subway turnstile or relieving themselves in public, spent more than 36 hours in detention before their arraignments, the first court appearance at they are informed of charges against them.
Lag times have declined markedly since 1991, when a state appeals court set a 24-hour limit on the arrest-to-arraignment process, but civil libertarians and public defenders still denounced a system they say essentially punishes those who have yet to be accused of a crime. The study said that 62 percent of the people whose arraignments exceeded 24 hours were eventually charged with misdemeanors. “When you’re arrested in New York City, there’s a good chance you’ll do the time without being convicted of doing the crime,” said Donna Lieberman of the civil liberties union. “It’s a perversion of justice.” The group joined severall City Council members in calling for a lawl that would require the release of most detainees when the 24-hour limit has passed. Court administrators and prosecutors said some delays were due to the shortage of arraignment judges, a lack of courtroom space, and the fact that some arrests take place after 1 a.m., when the court system shuts down for the day.