Articles Posted in Summonses

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United States District Court Violation Notices – a Dangerous Trap for the Uninformed

People who commit minor offenses on federal property (such as parks, beaches, government buildings, or national monuments) sometimes receive United States District Court Violation Notices. These notices look a bit like traffic tickets or criminal summonses (see links below). They typically list the offense charged and the date and time of the offense. They also usually offer the option to pay a fine through the mail or request an appearance in court. Many people elect to simply pay the fine through the mail because they think it is harmless to do so. (And, the arresting officers usually tell them that it’s no big deal and they should just pay the fine). However, most of the time, pleading guilty through the mail actually constitutes a guilty plea to a crime that will show up on a background check. These offenses are typically misdemeanors and the records of conviction are publicly available through the federal Central Violations Bureau. Those convicted of a federal petty offense have to respond “yes” to the question as to whether they have been convicted of a crime, and of course those professionals with employment-related licenses may be obligated to report these convictions to their certification boards. See the links below to a typical violation notice:

violation notice (page 1) violation notice (page 2)

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A majority of our clients are booked, processed and “put through the system,” meaning they are brought to central booking shortly after arrest and then brought out before a Judge for an arraignment on the charges. Usually, this arraignment occurs within roughly 24 hours of the arrest. Other clients are issued Desk Appearance Tickets (“D.A.T.’s”) or summonses which command them to return to Court on a future date.

In Manhattan, specifically, most arrestees are brought downtown to the 100 Centre Street Courthouse to face charges. However a smaller number of defendants are directed to appear in Manhattan’s Midtown Community Court which is located at 314 West 54th Street in Manhattan. In this blog, we cover some of the Midtown Community Court basics to shed light on what should be expected for those who find themselves in the unfortunate predicament of having to fight a charge or charges there.

Midtown Community Court was launched in 1993 with the primary objective of dealing with quality-of-life offenses, so most of the cases involve misdemeanors and/or violations. Examples of some of the common charges you are likely to face in Midtown Community Court include:

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If you are reading this blog, you may be one of the many people under the impression that smoking and possessing marijuana in New York City is now legal. Or, perhaps you’ve been issued a summons accusing you of doing so. First of all, marijuana possession is still illegal in New York City and State, and such will be the case unless and until the legislature acts to amend the law.

What has changed however, is the New York Police Department’s approach to marijuana arrests. In short, you can absolutely still be charged with a crime if caught smoking or possessing marijuana in public. The NYPD, however, has announced that it will cease making full-blown arrests and instead will issue summonses in these cases with limited exceptions (if the person they stop is on probation or parole, has outstanding warrants or a history of violence, or is in violation of another law (ie, DWI drugs).

A summons is a pink ticket handed to you by a police officer which can charge you with a crime or a violation. If you receive one, it means you have been commanded to answer misdemeanor and/or violation charges in a Court of law. Failure to abide by the summons and appear in Court can and will result in a warrant being issued for your arrest. So you (or a lawyer who can go on your behalf – see below) must answer the ticket personally.

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Many frustrated bar and restaurant owners in New York City have been cited for violating section 65 of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Law ("ABC Law") on account of a sale to a minor. Oftentimes, the City will send in junior "explorers" or other underage people to purposefully purchase alcohol in a restaurant or bar in an attempt to drum up violations, which they can then monetize through summonses and State Liquor Authority ("SLA") enforcement.

If you receive a summons for underage sale a summons for sale to a minor, you will probably be sent initially to the courthouse at 346 Broadway, where all summonses in New York and Kings Counties are dealt with.

Violations of ABC Law § 65 are misdemeanors, as no particular penalty is spelled out elsewhere in the chapter. See ABC Law § 130(5). Thus, if a violation occurs, the violator – whether it be a corporation or an individual – would be facing a permanent criminal record. The corporate consequences of a criminal conviction cannot all be discussed here, but suffice it to say, it is not a good thing for any type of business association (or individual for that matter) to maintain a criminal record.

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sir_edward_cokeThe great British jurist Sir Edward Coke has been quoted as stating regarding corporations that, “It is a fiction, a shade, a nonentity, but a reality for legal purposes. A corporation aggregate is only in abstracto–it is invisible, immortal, and rests only in intendment and consideration of the law.”

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. . . .

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Arrested for Possessing a Small Amount of Marijuana

While the issuance of criminal court desk appearance tickets may have gone down in light of a re-energized debate as to the wisdom of continued illegality of marijuana, the number of NYC marijuana summonses or pink summonses issued appears to have increased. This occurrence probably has as much to do with the relaxed views on the harmful effects of marijuana as it does with the protestations of the defense bar and others that misdemeanor marijuana arrests were often times predicated on illegal or questionable practice of ordering an arrestee to empty his or her pockets only to be told that upon compliance the marijuana was now “open to public view” thus elevating the charge from a violation to a misdemeanor. Whatever the cause, people who have received a marijuana summons in New York City need to know that they have the right to pursue a result which keeps their criminal records not only conviction-, but also arrest-free. The full text of the statute regarding marijuana violations is below:

§ 221.05 Unlawful possession of marihuana. A person is guilty of unlawful possession of marihuana when he knowingly and unlawfully possesses marihuana. Unlawful possession of marihuana is a violation punishable only by a fine of not more than one hundred dollars. However, where the defendant has previously been convicted of an offense defined in this article or article 220 of this chapter, committed within the three years immediately preceding such violation, it shall be punishable (a) only by a fine of not more than two hundred dollars, if the defendant was previously convicted of one such offense committed during such period, and (b) by a fine of not more than two hundred fifty dollars or a term of imprisonment not in excess of fifteen days or both, if the defendant was previously convicted of two such offenses committed during such period.

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We have discussed the forgery laws in New Yorkin general. This post will cover the a common type of arrest in New York City: underage people being caught with a fake ID or New York State Driver’s license. Many young people in the greater New York City area carry a fake ID in order to get into bars before they are 21. While this seems to be a fairly innocuous reason to carry a fake ID, the law in New York can be quite unexpectedly severe. Consider the base forgery statute, which criminalizes the possession of any “forged instrument,” which is defined as a “written instrument which has been falsely made, completed or altered.”

PL 170.00(7). Criminal possession of a forged instrument in the third degree: “A person is guilty of criminal possession of a forged instrument in the third degree when, with knowledge that it is forged and with intent to defraud, deceive or injure another, he utters or possesses a forged instrument. Criminal possession of a forged instrument in the third degree is a class A misdemeanor.” PL 170.20.

These provisions work to actually criminalize the possession of a fake or forged driver’s license. However, prosecutorial experience teaches us that that in certain situations, having something like this can actually lead to felony charges. This is because the next level up in the statutory scheme reads as follows:

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The New York Times has reported that a Brooklyn judge has decided to elevate the standard for legal sufficiency of the accusatory instruments in summons matters involving open containers of alcohol. Up until now, summons judges had usually upheld a summons which simply stated something to the effect that, “at t/p/o (meaning the time and place of occurrence) defendant possessed a 12 oz beer in a plastic cup with the intent to consume it.” This judicial practice was somewhat puzzling because under normal circumstances, complaints or summons matters had to also state the basis of knowledge that the officer had to conclude that the item was, in fact what they allege it was. For example, in marijuana cases, the officer usually will say that he or she knew that the substance he possessed was in fact marijuana because of his training and experience in the identification of that substance. The Brooklyn judge, Noach Dear, held that officer must now prove the beverage to contain alcohol by conducting a laboratory test — a highly impractical feat to accomplish for most police officers on the beat. This decision — while not binding on other judges — may change the approach law enforcement takes to issuing open container summonses directing individuals to appear at 346 Broadway. In fact, the entire summons court system at 346 Broadway was subsequently skewered in another New York Times article, which characterized the practices there as being “warped.”

Regardless of whether this decision results in fewer summonses or changes practices in summons court, if you are issued a summons to appear at 346 Broadway (from either Manhattan or Brooklyn) you should contact an experienced summons court attorney in order to gain valuable advice and representation in your case. There are many ways to avoid any charges in that courtroom that you should discuss before going forward.

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Never mind drug-dealing and violence – it appears the NYPD is cracking down on people who remain in New York City’s parks after closing time, despite the fact that signs which indicate closing times are often small and go unseen. As a result, we have seen an increase in the number of law-abiding citizens (including professionals and students) summoned to court to answer criminal – yes, criminal – charges for remaining in parks after closing time (Central Park and Prospect Park both close at 1 a.m.). While the lights in Central Park, for example, may remain on after closing and no gates or fences close to alert park-goers they need to leave, one can see how easy it may be for an unsuspecting New Yorker or tourist to find him/herself relaxing in a park after closing time, only to be stopped by a police officer and charged under section 1-03 of the New York City Park Rules and Regulations.

In some cased the police will watch someone walk into the park after closing time without warning them, and then immediately stop them and issue a summons (again, no fences close – you’d think the police would warn you). If you are issued such a ticket, you are probably charged under Park Rules and Regulations § 1-03, which is a misdemeanor. Believe it or not, if you are convicted of being in a park after closing time you will be left with a permanent criminal record. The lesson here is to take the summons seriously; as is the case with any summons, failing to return on the summons date will result in a warrant being issued for your arrest. If you or anyone you know has been issued a summons or a desk appearance ticket for this, contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer at The Law Office of Matthew Galluzzo to represent you.

§1-03 General Provisions

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Now that the warm weather is here, most native New Yorkers and tourists can enjoy the sunny weather by going to any one of our gorgeous parks to take in all of the historic sights and sounds the city has to offer.

Well, maybe not the sounds so much these days…You may have noticed green and white signs which are being placed in public areas by the Department of Parks and Recreations or the Central Park Conservancy, most notably in the Park’s Strawberry Fields, Bethesda Fountains and the Boathouse. The signs, which have been placed in areas where talented musicians play soothing music which enriches the city’s cultural value and history, designate the areas they are posted in as “Quiet Zones” and prohibit musical instrument playing in addition to playing music through amplifying devices. So, no radios or speaker systems to disturb the peace…but what about the gentle classical music you may have been accustomed to hearing when strolling through the park? You won’t hear it anymore, if the city can help it…So far this year cellists, saxophonists, violinists, guitarists, and flutists playing without any electric amplification have been issued summons by the Parks Department charging them with making unreasonable noise, and asked to cease playing music at all in these areas.

While the New York Civil Liberties Union has gotten involved in the matter to address the First Amendment issues associated with the city’s prohibition of music playing in our city, the fact of that matter remains that musicians are being summoned to criminal courts to answer to judges for their actions and pay fines. Presumably they are being charged under Parks and Recreations Regulations § 1-05, section (a) which deals with:

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