Manhattan Criminal Courts Building at 100 Centre St., New York. (Photo: Rick Kopstein/ALM)

People arrested in New York City will now participate in arraignments via videoconference, court officials announced Wednesday.

The change is part of the New York state court system’s switch, effective 5 p.m. Monday, to an “essential functions only” mode to limit courthouse traffic amid the spread of coronavirus.

Criminal courthouses in each borough will have three video parts, which will together handle “all essential Criminal Court functions” until further notice, court officials said.

One court part will have a video link to the relevant county’s central booking building, where people without suspected coronavirus exposure or COVID-19 symptoms will appear. Lawyers and judges will still appear in court, and separate video feeds will allow defense attorneys to talk to their clients while the client also participates in the overall hearing.

The second court part will operate similarly, but it’s dedicated to people showing COVID-19 symptoms or with potential exposure at the time of their arrests, court officials said. Those defendants will be held at Red Hook Community Court for cases in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island and at Midtown Community Court for cases in Manhattan and the Bronx, and video links in each county’s courthouse will allow them to appear remotely.

In both parts, judges will be able to send securing orders and orders of protection electronically.

The third court part will handle essential applications other than arraignments, and defendants will appear remotely unless the supervising judge orders otherwise, court officials said.

Other than these essential activities, most criminal court matters are being delayed. The court is issuing “administrative adjournments” for 30 days if the defendant is in jail and 90 days if the defendant is not in jail.

City jails have also ended in-person visits. Legal visits will be conducted remotely, city officials said.


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