The Criminal Justice Reform Act Evaluation: Trends in Criminal Summonses Pre-Implementation, 2003-2016

The Criminal Justice Reform Act (CJRA) allows police officers to issue a civil summons rather than a criminal court summons for five offenses: (1) public consumption of alcohol, (2) public urination, (3) littering, (4) unreasonable noise, and (5) NYC Park Rules offenses.  By moving enforcement of many of these offenses out of the criminal courts, policymakers sought to support more proportionate responses to these lower-level, non-violent offenses. CJRA was also intended to reduce the number of warrants issued for New Yorkers who failed to appear for a criminal summons, thereby reducing collateral consequences.  DCJ produced this report as part of an evaluation of CJRA that was funded by the NYC Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice.

This report established a baseline for understanding summonses issuance in New York City prior to implementation of CJRA.

Key Findings:

  • There was a 55% decrease in the issuance of criminal summonses to individuals in NYC, from 2006 to 2016.
  • Among criminal summonses issued in 2016, more than half were for one of the five offenses that became eligible for a civil summons with the implementation of the CJRA.
  • The warrant issuance rate in 2016 among summonses for charges eligible for a civil summons was almost 50%.