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New Open Container Decision Opens the Door to New Arguments in Summons Courts

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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