More Information about Pink Summons Cases in New York City
By Don Murray
Typical Offenses Charged in NYC Pink Summonses
- Drinking Alcohol in Public
- Being in a Park After Dark
- Riding a Bicycle on the Sidewalk
- Various Trespass Offenses
- Disorderly Conduct
- Unlawful Possession of Marijuana
- Reckless Driving
- Various Trucking Offenses
- Urinating in Public
- Possession of a Knife over 4 inches
- Selling tickets too close to a stadium (even for face value)
- Unlawful Eviction
These are merely the most commonly charged offenses. The New York City Administrative Code is filled with exotic ways for people to be given a summons.
Pink Summons Options
If you have received a Pink Summons, you have the following basic options if your goal is simply to try to resolve the case by way of some settlement:
- Appear Yourself Without a Lawyer
- Appear Yourself With a Lawyer
- Hire a Lawyer to Appear For You
- Ignore the Summons (NOT RECOMMENDED)
NOTE: If your goal is to CONTEST the charges at some sort of a trial, then it should be obvious that you absolutely need a lawyer and your personal appearance will be required. Despite the apparent lack of seriousness of some of the more common summons accusations, you will still need a lawyer to have the highest likelihood of success at your trial. A lawyer understands the rules of evidence and a lawyer understands how to cross-examine witnesses. If you do not then it would be unwise to attempt to conduct your own trial.
Option 1 - Appear Yourself Without a Lawyer
Depending on the amount of free time you have, what you have to lose by making an error in judgment, and your taste for that risk, this option may be for you. Here are the pros and cons of appearing yourself without a lawyer:
It might be cheaper. If your out of pocket expenses are not great to get to court, and your taste for risk allows you to deal with such things yourself, it may well be cheaper.
Your Time and Aggravation. Many people do not want to have to take time away from family or work obligations to deal with summons cases. In some cases, the income lost by having to appear in court could exceed the cost of hiring a lawyer. In other cases, people may not be able to take time off from work. Furthermore, some people just hate having to deal with the bureaucracy of the system. Some people do not find it to be the most pleasant and uplifting experience.
Lingering Doubts about the Outcome. Even if the outcome is fairly standard and routine to the court staff, many people who are not intimately familiar with the court system are uncomfortable enduring even the summons process without some legal advice. Some people think of hiring a lawyer for a pink summons like going to the doctor when you are pretty sure all you have is a common cold. Some people don't need the reassurance of a doctor in that situation, while others want to be absolutely certain and hear it from a professional. Having a lawyer help to navigate through the process, even if it is a relatively trivial process, makes some people more comfortable with the ultimate outcome and allows some people to rest assured that the matter was concluded in the most sensible manner.
Chance Lawyer will Identify Issue or Obtain Rare Result. While frequently these pink summons matters do not generate substantial legal issues, from time to time there may be some legal defect in the summons that would permit your lawyer to obtain a better result than you would. You can not always rely on the judge to locate your best argument for you. If you do not hire a lawyer, you may not obtain the best result you could have if your case happens to be one of the cases in which there is a legal defect you will not see.
Option 2 - Appear Yourself with a Lawyer
No lingering doubts about Outcome. You have a lawyer. Everything is explained to you to your satisfaction. You understand the significance of all the terms and you understand as much as you care to ask your lawyer about.
Lawyer may find some legal argument you will miss because you are not a lawyer.
Out of pocket expense for lawyer.
You still have to take off from work or interrupt your daily schedule to appear.
Option 3 - Hire a Lawyer to Appear for You.
You might not have to appear. You don't have to take time off work. You don't have to travel back to New York City from out of state just for a summons. You don't have to deal with the system. This single reason is frequently the primary reason people from out of state or out of the country choose to hire an lawyer.
No lingering doubts about Outcome.
Lawyer may find legal argument to work for you that you would not find.
Out of pocket expense to hire lawyer. ($375 in most cases)
Option 4 - Ignore the Summons -- VERY BAD IDEA
This is not an option that makes any sense and is not a good idea. Failing to appear when directed is illegal. A warrant will be issued for your arrest. If you are arrested on a warrant, you may then need to hire a lawyer at a considerably greater expense than you would have to deal with your summons matter. Furthermore, being arrested on a summons warrant is more than likely going to happen at an extremely inconvenient time and depending on where and when, it could be exceedingly embarrassing.
Changing Court Date for Your Summons
People often call to ask whether or not court dates for new york city pink summons cases can be changed. Police officers who give out the tickets frequently tell people that they can simply walk into court and have the date changed. This is especially an issue when the person who is given the ticket is visiting New York City for a short period of time and does not want to return two months later for a ticket.
Inevitably, people go to court only to be told that it is impossible to accommodate the request on such short notice. The reason is that although you have YOUR copy of the summons, the court does not have its copy yet. There is a time lag, often a considerable one, between the moment the police officer writes out a summons and the time that the court receives the paperwork from the police that alerts the court about a new summons.
A good rule of thumb is to assume that the court will not have the paperwork until about two weeks before the scheduled appearance date.
Once the court has the paperwork, it is sometimes possible to convince the clerk of the court to advance a case. Be advised that the decision to advance a case is in the discretion of the clerk of the court. While they can often be accommodating and quite helpful, realize that on any particular day, court congestion may be such that advancing a case will be impossible.
The Police Officer told me it would be Dismissed
Well, depending on your taste for risk and your legal experience, perhaps you don't need a lawyer. (Read in-depth discussion of whether you should hire a lawyer for a pink summons). On the other hand, I wouldn't necessarily assume that any case was going to be dismissed for no particular reason.
An excellent question to ask yourself when pondering the police officer's legal advice is why he is issuing you a pink summons if it is just going to be dismissed. Seems pretty silly to me. Remember, the police officer isn't going to be there when you appear the first time. The police officer (the one who WROTE you the summons) is not going to be your advocate in court. If your case isn't dismissed, you won't be able to ask him about it and he won't be there to jump up and defend you. The person who wrote you the summons is not your lawyer.
The person who wrote you the summons is the person who put you in the position of having the summons.
Can I Just Mail in A Fine Payment?
Not usually. In some cases, when you are charged with Drinking Alcohol in Public or a certain version of urinating in public cases, the police may provide you with a form that permits pleading guilty by mail. If you haven't been given that form or if you are not charged with Drinking Alcohol in Public, then you will not be permitted to resolve the matter by mail. We have come across cases in which the police have provided the mail-in form in error and the clerk rejected the payment by mail. In most cases, you will not be permitted to resolve your summons by mail.
Pink Summons Discussion
People who receive pink summonses in New York City, including Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx, and Manhattan, frequently get conflicting information about what to do about it. In this page, you will find a discussion of many of the issues people wrestle with when confronted with a pink summons.
See our Corporate Pink Summons Information for more details on how to handle pink summons cases for Corporations.
While our legal practice generally involves defending more serious criminal cases, we routinely assist those in need of assistance in these smaller, but still worrisome matters.
Call 718-268-2171 for more information or to schedule your free consultation with a New York criminal defense lawyer from Shalley & Murray.
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Shalley & Murray (Westchester Office)
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