7Sep 2016

Summons Instead of Arrests, a New Ruling in Manhattan

On March 1, 2016, New York Police Department (NYPD) and the Manhattan County District Attorney’s Office announced a new ruling about low-level offenses with regards to treatment to the offenders. Low-level offenses are non-criminal violations such as drinking alcohol in public, taking up to two seats in subways, urinating in public, littering, making too much noise, or parking violations. Starting on March 7, 2016, summons can be issued to offenders of low level offenses instead of arrest, if not found as a public safety risk.

The rise of this policy change rooted from the intention to remove thousands of cases annually from the state courts, and would save valuable police resources and give the opportunity to focus their efforts on the individuals involved in violent crimes in New York City instead. Mayor Bill de Blasio said that this reform helps prevent unnecessary jail time for low-level offenses which is a way to correct the criminal justice system in Manhattan. The legislation was passed in May 2016 and was signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio and became law on June 13, 2016, to create more proportional penalties for certain low-level offenses.1

“For too long, one small wrongdoing came with a huge cost, taking a large toll on New Yorkers’ lives and opportunities. A minor, nonviolent act of poor judgment should not determine one’s destiny. Today, we are making sure that key low-level offenses are enforced appropriately – without sacrificing our city’s quality of life or our residents’ safety,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio, when he signed the new policy on June 13, 2016.2
Before The Criminal Justice Reform Act of 2016 (CJRA), when one gets an offense, the offender has to be arrested and conduct the usual prosecution process to the offender, like paperwork processing, filing and building the case, up to the court appearances, even to low-level traffic violations. Today, when issued with a summons, it can be either a civil court or criminal court summons, with the discretion of the issuing officer based on the impact on public safety.

New York Criminal Court Summons is one of the available charges in New York City Criminal Court, being issued to the offender, containing the title of the offense and the list of NYC courts which handle court summons. It also contains the factual allegation which led to the summons and the defendant’s statement in connection with the offense. This is a complete documentation of the allegation, including the information about the issuing officer.3 The offender issued a criminal court summons is required to make a personal court appearance in general and if there is no appearance on the set date, a warrant will be issued for open arrest.1

On the other hand, New York Civil Court summons is the other type of summons that would not create a permanent criminal record and court appearances can be done over the phone, and fines can be paid online. If the person has no appearance in court, there is no corresponding warrant. The catch in this civil court summons is that the fines being imposed here are higher compared to the criminal ones. 1

With the new route being tackled by the NYC District Office in handing the criminal justice system in the state, the majority of supporters and citizens are optimistic that the outcome will be for a better community.

1 http://labs.council.nyc/legislation/criminal-justice-reform/
2 http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/530-16/mayor-de-blasio-signs-criminal-justice-reform-act
3 http://www.newyorkcitydefense.com/summons-court-faq.html

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