This opinion represents the views of the Office of the State Comptroller at the time it was rendered. The opinion may no longer represent those views if, among other things, there have been subsequent court cases or statutory amendments that bear on the issues discussed in the opinion.
COUNTIES -- Powers and Duties (liability for the cost of transportation to county jail)
COUNTY SHERIFF -- Powers and Duties (transportation of individual after arraignment)
VILLAGES -- Powers and Duties (liability for the cost of transportation to county jail)
CORRECTION LAW, §500-c; COUNTY LAW, §657-a: If, after an individual is arraigned by the village justice court and committed by order of the court to the custody of the county sheriff, a village transports the individual to the county jail because the sheriff is unable to do so, the cost of the transportation is a county charge.
You ask whether the cost incurred by a village in transporting an individual from a village justice court to a county jail, after the individual has been arraigned in village justice court and committed by the village justice to the custody of the county sheriff, is a charge of the village or the county.
With certain exceptions, Correction Law, §500-c provides that each sheriff "shall receive and safely keep, in the county jail of his county, every person lawfully committed to his custody ..." Further, it is well-established that a sheriff is responsible for transporting prisoners lawfully committed to the sheriff's custody by a local criminal court unless the court delegates the responsibility to another officer (City of Newburgh v County of Orange, 85 AD2d 591, 444 NYS2d 713; City of Poughkeepsie v County of Dutchess, 88 AD2d 964, 451 NYS2d 816; see Village of Walden v County of Orange, Supreme Court, Orange County, Slifkin, J., Nov. 12, 1980 affd 85 AD2d 600, 444 NYS2d 699; Matter of Delaney, 75 AD2d 692, 427 NYS2d 284 lv den 51 NY2d 707 433 NYS2d 1028). Absent such delegation, if a village provides transportation because the sheriff is unable or unwilling to do so, it is also well-established that the cost is a county charge for which the village is entitled to be reimbursed (Village of Walden, supra; 33 Opns St Comp, 1977, p 126; see City of Newburgh, supra; City of Poughkeepsie, supra; County Law, §657-a).
The case of Village of Walden, supra, specifically concerned post-arraignment transportation of prisoners from village justice courts to the county jail. In that case, because the sheriff's department was unable to provide the transportation, village police officers had transported the prisoners to county jail, after arraignment before a village justice and the signing of orders of the court committing the prisoners to the custody of the sheriff. It was held that, since the responsibility of transportation was that of the sheriff, the cost must be borne by the county, and the village was entitled to reimbursement from the county. It is our opinion that the Village of Walden case is dispositive of your question.
In reaching this conclusion, we recognize that there is language in a lower court case decided after Village of Walden, supra to the effect that the cost of a town's transportation of a defendant from an arraignment to the county jail "would not be a proper County charge, since actual physical custody in compliance with an order of commitment had not occurred pursuant to the Sheriff's statutory mandate" (Town of Poughkeepsie v County of Dutchess, 129 Misc 2d 312, 315-6, 492 NYS2d 1009, 1013; emphasis added). It is our opinion, however, that Town of Poughkeepsie, supra is not the controlling precedent here.
It is clear that the sheriff in the Village of Walden, supra case, as in Town of Poughkeepsie, supra, did not have physical custody of the prisoners in a post-arraignment situation since, as noted, the village transported the prisoners because the sheriff's department was unable to do so. The Appellate Division, nonetheless, affirmed the lower court's decision that the county was responsible for the cost of transportation. Village of Walden, supra, was cited favorably in City of Poughkeepsie, supra, in support of the holding that a county sheriff has primary responsibility for transportation of prisoners between a city court and the county jail (see also 1990 Atty Gen Opn No. I90-65; 1977 Atty Gen [Inf Opns] 280; Criminal Procedure Law, §§205.00, 500.10). Thus, to the extent the Town of Poughkeepsie, supra case may be read to apply to the instant situation, we believe it is against the weight of authority
Accordingly, it is our opinion that if, after an individual is arraigned by the village justice court and committed by order of the court to the custody of the county sheriff, a village transports the individual to the county jail because the sheriff is unable to do so, the cost of the transportation is a county charge.
December 7, 1993
Elizabeth Newman, Esq., County Attorney
County of Chautauqua
Samuel L. Drayo, Jr., Esq., Village Attorney
Village of Fredonia