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Despite Drop in Arrests for Lower-Level Offenses, Threat of Prosecution Remains

Since New York City’s adoption of the Criminal Justice Reform Act, there has been a significant fall off in criminal summonses issued by the NYPD. This landmark piece of legislation was aimed at creating a fairer and more just criminal justice system. It allows police to treat as civil, rather than criminal, certain low-level offenses that had accounted for 52 percent of all criminal summonses issued in New York City in 2016, the year before the reform law took effect.

The CRJA gives defendants the option of paying a fine on charges of public consumption of alcohol, public urination, unreasonable noise, littering and City Park rules violations. Removing these offenses from the criminal courts was intended to spare people harsh punishments for minor infractions and to cut down on the collateral consequences of a conviction, such as difficulties with employment, education and housing. According to a study, about a third of the people who receive civil summonses for these offenses choose to pay the fine.

But despite the reform law, it’s important to remember that police have considerable discretion in how to treat these offenses. Criminal summonses can still be issued, arrests can still be made and the person can still be prosecuted, which becomes more likely when the person has a criminal record or an outstanding arrest warrant.

If you charged with any criminal offense in New York City, you face the possibility of fines, jail time and community service. Even a lower-level offense can result in an arrest record, whether or not you plead guilty or are convicted. Immediately upon receiving a summons, it is wise to consult with a criminal defense attorney to determine whether or not the charge is criminal in nature and how to contest it.

At Tacopina, Seigel & DeOreo, we believe strongly that everyone’s rights deserve to be protected and that people’s lives shouldn’t be ruined because of minor transgressions. If you need a criminal defense lawyer to stand up for you, please call our Manhattan office at 212-227-8877 or contact us online today.

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