If you’ve ever wished that Law & Order would create a show about minor crimes, New York City is here to shatter your dreams. Starting soon, Manhattan police officers will no longer be arresting people who drink in public, pee outside, or take up more than one seat on the subway (an offense many of us probably had no idea was punishable by arrest!). Instead, police officers — who have better things to do than deal with your drunk ass dancing the Macarena on a street corner on Saturday night — will issue criminal summons, which will allow perps (that’s one of those words we all learned from Law & Order) to get their act together and appear before a judge at a later date instead of spending the night in the slammer.
Honestly, the fact that this isn’t a thing already (especially when one of the minor crimes is “riding between subway cars“) is surprising, but the New York Times reports that these new rules go into effect on Monday, so at least people will still be able to get to work, even if they’re stopped by police for trying to move from a particularly smelly train car to one that’s a little less pungent while the train is moving. Manhattanites putting their feet on subway seats will also now get a summons instead of being arrested (at least most of the time).
From the New York Times:
Lawrence K. Marks, the state’s chief administrative judge, called the shift a sensible way to ease the burden on the court without compromising public safety. He said it would also improve how New Yorkers experience the criminal justice system.
“Being arrested and detained is a far different experience and can be a more negative experience than being issued a summons to appear in court at a future date,” Judge Marks said.
Yes, that’s true. Being arrested for taking up two seats on the train could potentially color one’s view of the criminal justice system!
Summonses are adjudicated by judges, who ask the recipient questions about the alleged violation or infraction before deciding whether to dismiss the ticket or impose a penalty, usually a fine. The process is typically simpler and faster than prosecuting an arrest, which requires officers and prosecutors to spend hours processing a suspect, filing paperwork, building a case and showing up for court appearances.
Not trying to look a gift horse in the mouth, but while this will reduce the yearly arrest rate by about 10,000, it’s hard to think of a situation in which someone who receives one of these summons (especially while drunk) not only keeps it in a safe place, but then actually follows the instructions on the slip. Hope the city’s got a way of dealing with that without making any arrests, too.