Have you gotten a traffic ticket or ever been arrested for a crime? Are you adopting a child? The New York Court system handles 4 million court cases a year and if you have a case in the court system, it may be delayed if you do not follow a certain procedure, have the correct paperwork, and have paid fines. It may make it difficult to get a judge to rule in your favor if you do not understand the proceedings or your have not followed the judge’s instructions. Delays can cause you additional money if you are paying attorney fees and court costs. Here are some important facts you should know before you get into the courtroom and what who decides your case in some of the courts if you are facing trial.

New York Civil Court

If you have a claim for a lawsuit, it will be decided in this court. Cases can be up to $25,000 in damages and small claims will be awarded in this court, too. Small claims court awards can be up to $5,000 and landlord-tenant matters are decided in the City’s Civil Court.

Criminal Court of New York City

Do you have misdemeanors on your record? If you have a misdemeanor on your record, it can be punishable by a fine or imprisonment of a year or less. Arraignments are also heard in criminal courts. These arrangements are first-time appearances after an arrest. Do you have a felony? If you do, you may have had to have a hearing to decide sentencing in cases that are punishable by more than one year of prison time.

District Courts

These are courts outside the City, in Nassau County and the five Western towns in Suffolk County. Defendants who are arraigned and awaiting sentencing for misdemeanors and lesser offenses may have their day in this court. Cases heard in this court are also civil cases that are at least $15,000 in claims.

City Courts

It helps to know where to go if you are facing trial. If you have a felony or misdemeanor, this will be where a judge may hear your case. This may also be where you will go if you have a civil case where the claims are up to $15,000. Some city courts will also handle small claims cases, but this usually means claims are no more than $5,000. Tenant and property owner disputes may also be decided in city courts.

Town and Village Courts

Though these courts usually handle misdemeanors and lesser charges, these justices will arraign defendants in Town and County courts before they are tried in a county case for a felony charge. Civil cases, up to $3,000 damages, are also heard in these courts.

County Courts, located in each county outside New York City

These courts have exclusive authority to try a defendant who has a felony charge. They share responsibility with Town and Village courts to help trials for misdemeanors and lesser charges. County courts also have limited authority to hear cases with money damages of up to $25,000.

Trial courts, in and outside New York City

Supreme Court

This court hears cases outside the authority of the lower courts. The type of cases that this court hears is divorce, separation, annulment, civil cases involving higher amounts and criminal cases proceedings.

Family Court

Cases involving adoption, foster care, guardianship, foster care appeal, juvenile delinquency are decided in this court. Child abuse, family violence, custody, visitation, and child neglect. These cases usually involve families and children.

Surrogate’s Court

This court usually handles cases in which wills must be validated or how administration of estates is decided. In this court, it usually involves cases in which a person has died. These courts also can handle adoption cases.

Claims Court

This court hears cases exclusively over money damages against the state of New York. This court has jurisdiction over lawsuits seeking money from certain entities, such as The New York State Thruway, the City University of New York, and the New York State Power Authority.

Some Resources and Services

There are many resources and services for the public. If New Yorkers do not have an attorney and need help knowing where to go in the court system, there is court help, www.courthelp.gov. This resource has information on court proceedings, court locations, law libraries, legal research sites, and lawyer referral services.

Court Help Centers

These centers are located at the courthouse and are designed to assist people who do not have an attorney. Clerks and court attorneys staff these offices that provide free advice and procedural information. They also offer free forms and publications. Some court help centers have lawyers who will provide free legal advice to litigants who do not have representation. A list of center locations is provided at www.nycourthelp.gov.

DIY Forms Programs

Did you know that there are some programs what allow you to create court forms for some types of court cases? These programs may be listed on the court help website and may be available at help centers, law libraries, and court clerk offices.

Accommodating the Disabled

The New York Court system complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act and provides services, programs, and activities that all users can access in the court system. Each court location has a liaison who is appointed to handle any special needs or accommodations that a person has.

These are some of the programs and services available through the court system. However, many more are available to those who do have court cases to be heard by a judge. For more about the services or programs listed, defendants and claimants can go to www.nycourts.gov/Admin/NYCourts-IntroGuide.pdf