Perhaps because of the view that corporations solely exist by virtue of
the law — as opposed to actual living, breathing people —
the New York Legislature has decided that a corporation must be represented
by an attorney in criminal matters, including corporate summonses when
required to appear in New York courts. Thus, pursuant to Criminal Procedure
Law section 600.20:
S 600.20 Corporate defendants; prosecution thereof. At all stages of a
criminal action, from the commencement thereof through sentence, a corporate
defendant must appear by counsel. Upon failure of appearance at the time
such defendant is required to enter a plea to the accusatory instrument,
the court may enter a plea of guilty and impose sentence. . . .
Corporations are commonly charged in summons court with fire or building
code violations as well as violations concerning commercial vehicle operations.
If not properly handled, judges are authorized to simply enter a guilty
plea on a corporation’s behalf and impose whatever fine they feel
is justified given the offense.
The process of hiring an attorney to handle such matters is relatively
simple compared to the hassles associated with mounting ticket and summons
debt. Once your attorney has a copy of the summons, they can advise you
as to the fine range and seek to minimize exposure by offering advice
as to remedial measures the corporation may take. Thus, although it may
not seem fair to the directors of a corporation to have to hire an attorney
for relatively minor infractions, an attorney can actually reduce your
liability and assist in handling the matter in the most efficient manner possible.
If you have questions about a citation or summons your corporation has
received, you should contact the
corporate summons attorneys at Galluzzo & Arnone LLP.