City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito’s office is working on a proposal that would make some of the most common criminal court summonses civil charges instead. Violators would get a ticket to one of the city’s administrative courts, such as the Environmental Control Board, instead of criminal court. Cops could no longer make arrests for those offenses, and missed court dates would turn into default monetary judgments instead of warrants.
Bratton appears cool to the idea, saying people wouldn’t take a civil ticket seriously.
A Daily News analysis shows the seven offenses that would be sent to one of the city’s administrative civil courts under the Mark-Viverito plan account for roughly 2.7 million, or 42%, of the summonses issued by the NYPD between 2001 and June 2014. They also account for more than 510,000 open arrest warrants, according to the analysis of data provided by the state Office of Court Administration.
The seven offenses under consideration are public consumption of alcohol, public urination, bicycling on the sidewalk, being in a park after dark, failure to obey a park sign, littering and unreasonable noise. The offenses under consideration for decriminalization are under the city’s administrative code — not the state penal code — making it possible to amend them without state approval, officials said.
Public urination and open container are the only two minor offenses for which fines can be paid by mail. But Lancman said many people have reservations about allowing people to simply pay online for criminal court summonses because they’d essentially be pleading guilty to a violation or, in some cases, a misdemeanor without having an attorney present.
“When it’s a civil offense we don’t have any problem letting people pay online or by mail without having to show up at all ... that would almost certainly mean you’d have a higher percentage of people paying a fine,” Lancman said.
He said that in criminal summons court, roughly half the people don’t show up, and of the people who do show up and are assessed a fine, a quarter of them don’t pay.