OTHER AREAS OF PRACTICE
AND COURT PROGRAMS
COUNSEL AT FIRST APPEARANCE
Counsel at First Appearance (CAFA): Under the CAFA program, LASW attorneys strive to be present at every single felony arraignment in every single local juristication within Westchester County - assuring that individuals are properly represented by an attorney advocating for release or bail upon arrest.
The court is not only an alternative to incarceration, but is much more than that.
It is a therapeutic court with the mission of recovery from addiction. This is accomplished through participation in a substance abuse program, frequent and random drug testing, changing one’s lifestyle and learning to become a productive citizen.
It requires regular court appearances before the Diversion Court Judge (presently Judge Capeci) and meeting with and reporting to the PSU staff (problem-solving unit) which consists of several case managers.
The program is voluntary. The participant must meet certain criteria to be accepted.
To qualify for diversion, a person must be charged with a non-violent felony (such as a drug felony or certain other enumerated non-violent felonies) and have no violent felony conviction within the last ten years. (There are exceptions to these requirements but they are very limited.) Ultimately the participant’s acceptance is dependent upon the Judge’s permission.
The Judge has final discretion as to whom is permitted to participate.
Each participant’s treatment plan is tailored to that individual client. There are a series of sanctions and rewards which move the participant through the program. Ultimately, what is required is 12 months of consistent “clean” time. Therefore, program completion is not guaranteed within a specific time period.
There are 4 phases to the program. As a participant successfully completes one phase they move into the next phase until they proceed to graduation. At a minimum, most participants are promised a misdemeanor and probation if they successfully complete all 4 phases.
Typically, many participants have their case dismissed once they successfully complete the program.
The Appellate Practice of the Legal Aid Society of Westchester County includes filing a Notice of Appeal when authorized by a client to do so.
In cases where the office will not be acting as appellate counsel, a motion is filed asking the intermediate appellate court to grant poor person relief and the assignment of 18 b counsel to perfect the appeal.
In cases where we act as appellate counsel, the office perfects the appeal in either the Appellate Term or the Appellate Division.
In those cases where the intermediate appellate has affirmed the lower court, the office seeks permission to appeal in either the Appellate Division or the Court of Appeals as the case may be.
Our appellate practice has also included filing habeas petitions in
federal district court where there is a claim that a federal constitutional right has been denied, as well filing certiorari petitions in the Supreme Court of the United States.
THE APPELLATE PRACTICE
This court was created by interested parties coming together to create an alternative to the traditional adversarial approach within the criminal justice system. The parties include the court, the district attorney, the defense bar, probation and program providers. The program is for two years.
Those individuals who have been diagnosed with serious mental illness are eligible. Initially only the clients charged with nonviolent felonies are/were considered. However exceptions have been made and some individuals charged with violent felonies have been permitted to participate. Each case is evaluated on an individual basis. Initially the District Attorney must consent to have the case evaluated for transfer to the Mental Health Court. It is voluntary. It is a therapeutic. The approach is holistic. If the participant is successful then the felony charge is dismissed.
The Participant is given a case manager to help them navigate the various resources available to them. The resource providers, such as Choice, or MHA, may be involved because they are providing housing and/or a day treatment program. There are also providers who help with employment skills. The goal is for the participant to learn to manage their illness and become law abiding and productive citizens and break the cycle of their criminal involvement. With the help of community resources, the objective is for the Client to find a stable residence if that is an issue; be connected to a medical provider who can prescribe and help maintain the client on their medical and psychotropic medication, and if appropriate help to develop or strength employment skills.
MENTAL HEALTH COURT
The Legal Aid Society of Westchester County has expanded its practice and now provides representation in Family Court to our current clients with pending criminal matters. Our Family Court Division attorneys are thoroughly familiar with Family Court practice and procedure, and provide current clients representation in the following areas:
Domestic Violence and Family Offenses
Orders of Protections- Modifications
Article 10 cases and related custody, visitation and termination of parental rights cases
Laws governing family issues can be difficult to navigate, and our practice focuses on empowering and advocating for our clients. We have a team of attorney’s, social workers and administrative staff who help our clients not only in court, but also help them get the services and benefits they need for their families.
The operation The Westchester County Veterans Court is guided by Article 216 of New York State’s Criminal Procedure Law. The Court functions primarily as a treatment court. It allows eligible Veterans of the United States Military to partake in mental health and substance abuse treatment programs. Successful completion of the program leads to a more favorable resolution of the case.
To be eligible for the Westchester County Veterans Court:
One must have served in or is currently serving in any branch of the United States Military.
The veteran must also be charged with B, C, D or E non-violent felonies.
Veterans charged with Sexual Related Offenses, Violent Crimes and those convicted of Violent Crimes within the past 10 years are not eligible.
Entrants are also afforded the help of the Office of Veteran Affairs and are assigned mentors through the VA who assist, motivate and guide participants through their respective treatment programs. Prospective participants are encouraged to contact this office. (914)286-3400 - firstname.lastname@example.org