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Summons over Arrests: A Reduction in Criminal Backlog

According to the U.S. Census Bureau New York City is home to more than 8 million people. With such a large population it makes sense that the city is so culturally diverse. Broadway, museums and the wide plethora of restaurants bring millions of tourists to New York city every year. However, this massive population and waves of tourism also correlate to the amount of crime tied to the city. In an effort to reduce the backlog of arrests which must be processed in the New York City criminal justice system, Mayor de Blasio is implementing a new way to deal with minor offenses.

Reducing the Backlog of Criminal Offenses

According to the New York Daily News, as of March 7, 2016 minor criminal offenders will only receive summonses in lieu of being arrested.  The article goes on to say the Manhattan District Attorney will no longer prosecute most of these minor criminal offenses. Minor criminal offenses include charges like “littering, public consumption of alcohol, or taking up two seats on the subway.” The New York Times reported that public urination would also be among the charges no longer arrested or prosecuted. Instead, officers have the discretion to issue a summons to individuals committing minor crime who they deem are not a danger to the public.

The goal for this change in policy is to reduce the overall caseload of the Manhattan Criminal Court by 10,000 per year.  In turn, this change in policy will likely reduce the amount of man hours required by police to enforce these crimes, as well as the hours needed by district attorneys to prosecute the crimes.  The hope is that police and prosecutors will then be availed more time to pursue more serious charges.  Last year the New York Times reported on this shift in policing as it dealt with public urination. According to the article, in 2013 alone there were 28,609 people cited for public urination in New York.  Public urination is certainly a prevalent issue in New York, so there is some debate on whether or not limiting punishment to a summons will actually deter offenders.  In a poll by NJ.com only 57.36% of readers felt that public urination should still remain an arrestable offense.

Responding to the New Policy

When the new policy comes into effect the summonses will bring the offenders into court before judges.  Then, after the defendants are asked a series of questions, judges will determine whether or not to dismiss the ticket, or to fine the alleged offender.  By limiting minor offenses to this process, the intent is to cut out paperwork and processing time which tends to be costly and time consuming.

You may be charged with one of these minor offenses and subject to either a court summons or actual arrest. Either way, you will need the advice of a seasoned criminal law attorney.  Phillip J. Murphy is licensed to practice in New York and has been practicing since 1989.  He can provide you with the guidance you need to navigate these new criminal policy changes in New York City.

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