Legal Aid Society

Bail & Incarceration

You or a loved one has been arrested, now what? After an arrest, you will be brought before a judge in the local criminal court. At that time, the judge will decide whether to set bail (monetary condition) or release you while you fight your charge(s). The consequences of having bail set are devastating for the person in custody and their families, but we can help. Our staff in the Decarceration Project work with our trial lawyers to make sure that everyone has a chance at freedom, and our Prisoners’ Rights Project can advocate for the incarcerated person’s safety and health inside New York City jails and New York State prisons.

How To Get Help

If you have an open criminal case, call the Criminal Defense Office in the borough where your case is pending and ask for your assigned attorney.

Bronx: 718-579-3000
Brooklyn: 718-237-2000
Manhattan: 212-732-5000
Queens: 718-286-2000
Staten Island: 347-422-5333

If you are seeking help for someone who is incarcerated and has complaints regarding physical or sexual abuse conditions, and/or inadequate medical or mental health treatment, please contact the Prisoners’ Rights Project at 212-577-3530. We generally do not represent individuals in individual litigation, but focus our resources on systemic challenges. We can provide accurate information about rights during incarceration and advocate for your safety and health.

Important Things To Know

Everything you need to know about bail.

Learn More

What you need to know about medical and mental health needs in custody.

Learn More

Procedures for prison visitation vary for city and state prison.

Learn More

Terms You Might Hear

The justice system can be overwhelming. Get familiar with some legal terms and acronyms you might hear like appeal, adjournment, petition, jurisdiction, deposition, and affidavit.

  • Allegation – The assertion, declaration, or statement of a party to an action, made in a pleading, setting out what the party expects to prove.
  • Arraignment – A criminal proceeding at which the defendant is called before a court, informed of the offense charged in the complaint, information, indictment, or other charging document, and asked to enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, or as otherwise permitted by law.
  • Attorney – A person admitted to practice law and authorized to perform criminal and civil legal functions on behalf of clients.
  • Clerk – An official or employee of the court who maintains the files of each case, and issues routine documents.
  • Contraband – Any property that it is illegal to produce or possess.
  • Custody – The care, possession, and control of a thing or person.
  • Defendant – In a civil matter, this refers to the individual being sued. This party is called the "respondent" in a summary proceeding. In a criminal case, the court officers and district attorneys will use this term to refer to someone accused of a crime.
  • Delinquency – An offense or misdemeanor; a misdeed; A debt or other financial obligation on which payment is overdue.
  • Docket – A written list of judicial proceedings set down for trial in a court OR a number given to a case in family court.
  • Felony – An offense of graver character than a misdemeanor and usu. punished by imprisonment for more than one year.
  • Lawyer – Someone whose job is to give advice to people about the law and speak for them in court.
  • Lien – A claim on specific property for payment of a debt.
  • Minor – A child under 18 years old.
  • Minutes – Notes of what happened in the courtroom.
  • Misdemeanor – Lesser crime punishable by a fine and/or county jail time for up to one year. Misdemeanors are distinguished from felonies which can be punished by a state prison term.
  • Party – Person having a direct interest in a legal matter, transaction or proceeding.
  • Precinct – A district of a city or town defined for police purposes. May also refer to a police station.
  • Surrender – To cancel or invalidate.
  • TPS – Temporary Protective Status. Offers temporary legal status to certain immigrants in the United States who cannot return to their home country due to ongoing armed conflict, natural disaster, or other extraordinary reasons.
  • Trial – The formal examination of a legal controversy in court so as to determine the issue.
  • Warrant – An official document approved by an authority (normally a judge) which gives the police permission to do certain things.
  • WebCrims – The website of the New York State Unified Court System. WebCrims provides online access to criminal cases with future appearance dates in all criminal courts in New York City and Nassau and Suffolk Counties, the County Courts in the Ninth Judicial District (which includes Westchester, Rockland, Orange, Putnam and Dutchess Counties), the County Court in Erie County, and the Buffalo City Court.