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Jumping a Turnstile: How a little mistake can become a big problem

Posted By Galluzzo and Johnson LLP || 17-Dec-2013

Jumping a turnstile: How a little mistake can become a big problem.

Imagine this scenario: You're running late for an important meeting in the city, and as you are standing at the subway turnstile you can see the subway train pulling up to the platform. In a nervous rush, you swipe your Metrocard only to get that dreaded message: SWIPE AGAIN THIS TURNSTILE. You swipe again and again to no avail. Realizing that your window is closing fast, you make the split-second decision to quickly hop over the bar. Sadly, though, an undercover police officer notices your amazing display of grace and athleticism and places you under arrest. Although it's really only a crime worth $2.50, you'd be surprised at the consequences that you might face.

First and foremost, it is possible to spend a night in jail - or twenty-four hours - as a result of this arrest. Police officers have the authority to give first-time offenders a Desk Appearance Ticket for this sort of arrest, meaning that the arrestee gets taken back to the precinct, fingerprinted, held for a few hours, and then instructed to return to court for their arraignment at a later date (maybe about six weeks later). However, when the arrestee does not have valid ID on their person, or has been previously arrested, or has an open warrant (including even on a minor matter like a summons warrant), then that person is probably getting processed by the police as a "regular arrest," meaning that they will be arrested and taken to Central Booking to await their arraignment straightaway. Obviously, a Desk Appearance Ticket is vastly preferable to a "regular arrest," as the person is probably only in custody for about four hours, as opposed to maybe twenty-four hours per a normal "regular arrest".

The charge for jumping a subway turnstile is Theft of Services, a violation of New York Penal Section 165.15, a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail. Take a deep breath: probably no one in recorded history has ever been sentenced to a year in jail for jumping over a subway turnstile. In fact, first time offenders are likely to receive plea bargain offers involving lesser charges like violations or ACDs (adjournments in contemplation of dismissal) with community service. However, just the arrest itself can be especially problematic for certain categories of people.

For example, our office once represented a New York City public school special-education teacher that worked as an independent contractor. She was issued a Desk Appearance Ticket for jumping a turnstile, and unfortunately, just the arrest itself prevented her from working for a period of time. The reason for this is that there is a New York City statute that forbids the Department of Education from employing anyone with an open criminal case. Given that even an ACD usually carries with it a pre-sealing period of six months, even the normal "best-case" disposition for this charge would have precluded her from working - or receiving any salary - for six months! Thankfully, our office was able to petition the prosecutor to dismiss the charge at her first court date in the interest of justice.

Finance professionals also face very potentially serious consequences. Most FINRA-licensed professionals working for banks or brokerages are required to disclose any arrests to their employer - no matter how small - pursuant to their employment contract. Moreover, an arrest for Theft of Services would probably need to be disclosed on the U4 form submitted to FINRA (and this arrest would require a FINRA-licensed professional to immediately update their U4 form). After all, the charge of Theft of Services is a theft-related crime, and FINRA demands that misdemeanor charges involving the "wrongful taking of property" be disclosed (in contrast, arrests for drunk driving or drug possession may not need to be disclosed depending on the circumstances).

In addition, out-of-town tourists visiting New York City might receive a Desk Appearance Ticket with a return date for day in which they are not going to be in New York. These people face the unenviable prospect of having to fly back to New York City just to appear in front of a judge for a few minutes to resolve the case, and might even have to stay around longer in New York to complete community service. If you reside out of town and have received a Desk Appearance Ticket, you should strongly consider contacting Galluzzo & Arnone – they may be able to make arrangements to appear on your behalf such that your personal appearance is unnecessary.

Finally, non-citizens can face potential immigration-related issues as a result of this otherwise-minor charge. Though immigration questions relating to criminal arrests and convictions are very complicated, the Immigration and Naturalization Act does plainly make a non-citizen deportable for a conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude. Moreover, theft of services (Penal Law 165.15) is probably a crime involving moral turpitude, meaning that a non-citizen could conceivably be deported or denied entry back into the United States for a conviction of this charge.

Of course, people can get arrested for Theft of Services at the subway in a variety of other fashions. For example, sometimes people absent-mindedly pass through the emergency gate that someone else has already to save themselves the trouble of swiping their Metrocard. Other times adults might use their child's student Metrocard, and we have seen cases of students being arrested for "doubling up" with their friends on a swipe. All of these acts can result in arrests and prosecutions for a violation of Penal Law 165.15.

If you or a loved one have been arrested or given a Desk Appearance Ticket for jumping a turnstile or otherwise violating Penal Law 165.15, you should strongly consider contacting the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Galluzzo & Arnone LLP. Their team of three former New York City prosecutors has successfully obtained dismissals of these charges for a variety of students, professionals, and tourists, and they are willing and able to help you as well. We have had particular success in convincing prosecutors to seal or dismiss these charges earlier than typically done. Thus, if you are a professional, non-citizen, or aspiring college or graduate student that is facing serious consequences as a result of an open ACD for Theft of Services, you should also definitely consider hiring Galluzzo & Arnone – even if your court date has already happened and you have already accepted an ACD to resolve your case.

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