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Town & Village CourtsTown & Village Courts

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)


Criminal

Download the Criminal Justice System Handbook

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Court Clerks

No Lawyer? There's Help...You can find help at the Clerk's Office at any courthouse. BUT ...Workers in the Clerk's Office can't take sides or give legal advice.

If you need help and don't know if you can get it:
Please ask. Court staff will be happy to try to help. Some courts and community organizations have special offices for helping people who don't have a lawyer.

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Court Records

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Small Claims

For answers to other frequently asked questions involving small claims actions such as:  Where can I bring a small claim action? How should I prepare for a small claims action? Am I required to have an attorney in a small claims action? What kinds of cases can be heard in small claims action? Please download a copy of "A Guide to Small Claims Court in the NYS City, Town And Village Courts"

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Summary Proceedings/ Landlord-Tenant

Download Tenant Questions & Answers: Holdover Eviction Cases in New York State.

Download the Tenant Nonpayment Guide for Outside NYC

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Traffic Cases

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Criminal

Download the Criminal Justice System Handbook

Q. What kinds of criminal cases are heard in city, town and village courts?
A. www.nycourts.gov/courthelp/CrimProb.html

Q. Where do I find a bail bonds person?
A. These people don't work for the court system. Many courts have a list of names available for the public. You may also look in the Yellow Pages.

Q. How do I post bail and when do I get it back?
A. The Court Clerk will tell you the type and amount of bail to be posted and how to do it. Bail is a way to be sure you show up in court. Bail can't be returned until the case is finished or bail is lowered or you are released in your own recognizance or returned to jail. There is a surcharge on cash bail (3% of the amount) which is not returned if there is a conviction.

Q. I have a warrant outstanding. If I come to court, will the judge put me in jail?
A. A warrant will not stop until the person makes a personal appearance in court. It's up to the judge about jail.

Q. I've been arrested. What will happen to me in court?
A. It is important to appear on the date you have been given. On the first court date, the judge will explain the charges and you will be given a copy of them. If you do not have a lawyer, the judge will decide if you can have a lawyer free of charge. The issue of bail will be discussed.

Q. I was a crime victim. Do I need a lawyer to prosecute the accused?
A. The district attorney's office or other local prosecuting agency represents "the people" in all criminal cases.

Q. There has been an indictment in my case. What happens next?
A. There will be a date scheduled for an "arraignment" of the indictment. At the arraignment, a plea will usually be entered and the issues of bail and your right to a lawyer will be discussed.

Q. The Court imposed a fine and a surcharge in my case. What do I do?
A. Talk to the Court Clerk about how to make payment with the court-ordered collection agency.

Q. How do I appeal?
A. A Notice of Appeal must be filed. Talk to the Court Clerk about time limits and who must get the notice.

Q. What is a Certificate of Relief From Disabilities and how do I get one?
A. An "Eligible Offender" may get this certificate so they don't have certain restrictions because he or she was convicted of a crime. (Examples of these restrictions may include giving up property or not being able to have certain jobs.) An application for this certificate is available from the Clerk's Office.

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Court Clerks

Court Clerks can:
1. Explain court rules and procedures.
2. Explain available options for your case or problem.
3. Provide past case rulings.
4. Provide cites to, or copies of, the law.
5. Explain public court operations and jobs.
6. Describe court records and their availability.
7. Provide public case information.
8. Tell you how to make a complaint.
9. Refer you to other offices or persons.
10. Provide forms with instructions.

But Court Clerks cannot:
1. Suggest the procedures you should follow.
2. Provide opinions about which option to chose.
3. Predict what the court will do.
4. Analyze the law based on the specifics of your case.
5. Provide information derived from the decision-making process.
6. Provide access to sealed or confidential case records.
7. Provide confidential case information.
8. Give opinions about your complaint.
9. Make referrals based on personal preference.
10. Provide or suggest the information to enter on forms.

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Court Records

Q. How can I access court records in a town or village court?
A. Court records may be accessed during the normal course of business at your local court by speaking with the court clerk.  Requests involving extensive searches or involving multiple defendants may require advanced notice or prearrangements with court personnel to avoid disruption of the court's workflow.

Q. What are the filing fees for court proceedings?
A. Filing Fees and Forms

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Small Claims

Q. How much can I sue for in Small Claims Court?
A. In Town and Village Courts where the limit is $3,000 (city courts have a small claims limit of $5,000).

Q. How do I file a small claim?
A. Go to the Town or Village Court. The Clerk will give you forms. You will need the name and address of the person or business you are suing, the amount you are suing for, and a brief reason why you are suing.

Q. What is the filing fee in a town or village court?
A. The fee is $10.00 if you suing for $1,000 or less. It's $15.00 if you are suing for more than $1,000.

Q. Can I use a personal check or credit card for the filing fee?
A. In some courts. Please call the court where you want to file the small claim.

Q. What does "DBA" mean?
A. "Doing business as."

Q. What is a "claimant?"
A. A claimant is the person suing in a small claims case. The "defendant" is the person being sued.

Q. What happens if the person or business I sue doesn't come to court?
A. You will still have to prove your case (for example, bring bills, written receipts, photographs, written estimates) and tell what happened. Then you may receive a "default" judgment.

Q. If I win my claim, how do I collect my money?
A. If the defendant doesn't pay, you will have to try to collect the money you have won. How you do this depends on how much you know about the defendant's financial situation (pay from work, bank account, motor vehicle, other assets). You may have to file "information subpoenas" (ask the Court Clerk). Or you may need the assistance of a sheriff or city marshal.

Q. How long do I have to collect my judgment?
A. Twenty years.

Q. If I don't like a Judge's decision, can I challenge it?
A. Yes. It's called an "appeal." There are different kinds of appeals. Please ask the Clerk.

For answers to other frequently asked questions involving small claims actions such as:  Where can I bring a small claim action? How should I prepare for a small claims action? Am I required to have an attorney in a small claims action? What kinds of cases can be heard in small claims action? Please download a copy of "A Guide to Small Claims Court in the NYS City, Town And Village Courts"

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Summary Proceedings / Landlord-Tenant

Download Tenant Questions & Answers: Holdover Eviction Cases in New York State.

Download the Tenant Nonpayment Guide for Outside NYC.

Q. What is a summary proceeding?
A. A summary proceeding is a legal means for recovering possession of real property. A landlord or other person entitled to possession of real property can bring a summary proceeding to quickly remove an occupant and recover possession. The procedures for bringing a summary proceeding are found in Article 7 of the Real Property Actions & Proceedings Law (RPAPL). Other relevant provisions are found in the Real Property Law (RPL). The parties to a summary proceeding are the petitioner (a landlord or other person entitled to possession of real property) and the respondent (the occupant of the real property). If the petitioner' prevails, the court may issue a warrant of eviction that must be enforced by a sheriff, city constable or marshal, or town constable. A small property owner can use the free and easy DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Form programs to make the court papers they need for start a nonpayment case, a licensee holdover case, or a squatter holdover case.

Q. Where should I bring a summary proceeding?
A. A summary proceeding must be brought in the court of the municipality in which the property is located. (RPAPL § 701 )

Q. What is a "notice of eviction"?
A. A notice of eviction is a written notice from a city marshal warning a tenant that he or she has to move out.

Q. What is a "notice of eviction"?
A. A notice of eviction is a written notice from a city marshal warning a tenant that he or she has to move out.

Q. What happens if a tenant doesn't answer the legal papers or a landlord or tenant misses the court date?
A. If a tenant does not answer the court papers or misses a court date, the landlord could win a judgment which could make an eviction. If a landlord misses a court date, the case could be thrown out. If the tenant misses the court date and the landlord wins a default judgment in a nonpayment or holdover case, the tenant can use the free and easy DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Forms Tenant Vacate Default Judgment Program to make an "Order to Show Cause" and "Affidavit in Support" to explain why the judgment should be vacated.

Q. What should a tenant bring to court?
A. A tenants should bring all money order receipts, canceled checks, or other receipts related to rent payment. A tenant should also bring a copy of the lease and lease renewal, if any, and records, including pictures and notes about problems with the apartment. Bring receipts for materials purchased to repair the apartment, if any.

Q. What happens if I need a postponement (a later court date)?
A. Ask for an "adjournment," which is the same as a postponement. Sometimes both parties can agree to "adjourn" the case to another day and let the judge know that. When they do not agree, the person wanting the adjournment must ask the judge for one.

Q. In an eviction case, what happens if a tenant and a landlord can't agree?
A. They will have a trial. The landlord will have to prove the case. If the landlord can't prove the case, it will be thrown out; if the landlord proves the case, the landlord will get a judgment against the tenant for the eviction.

Q. What is an Order to Show Cause?
A. An Order to Show Cause is a written request to bring the case to a Judge for a reason or reasons in the Order to Show Cause papers. An Order to Show Cause must be signed by a judge and will state the date, time, and courtroom for the court hearing.

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Traffic Cases

Q. I got a traffic ticket. Where do I go?
A. The name and address of the court is listed on the ticket with the date and time that the case will be heard in court.

Q. What will happen if I do nothing about the ticket?
A. A warrant can be issued for your arrest and your license can be suspended.

Q. What is a supporting deposition?
A. A supporting deposition is a document that has information about why the ticket was given, the time and location of the stop, and other information about what happened. If you want to see that document, you can check the box on the ticket for this.

Q. Why can't the court accept my insurance card as proof of insurance of my vehicle?
A. You can still have an insurance card after your insurance has been canceled. That is why an original letter from the insurance company or agent is required.

Q. Do I need a license to attend driver's improvement school?
A. Yes.

Q. My license was suspended. How do I get it back?
A. After getting written permission from the judge who made the decision, an application can be made to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Final approval is with the DMV.

Q. I was charged with DWI and my license was taken away. My case was then dismissed but the DMV won't give me back my license. What do I do?
A. The final determination about giving back the license is with DMV.

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