Evaluating the Impact of New York City’s Criminal Justice Reform Act: Summons Issuance and Outcomes in the 18 Months after Implementation

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.

Using data from the Office of Court Administration (OCA) and Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH), DCJ analyzed criminal and civil summonses issued by the New York City Police Department for CJRA offenses, 18 months post-implementation of CJRA. This report presents the results of the following analyses: (1) the number of civil and criminal summons issued over time as well as issuance by offense type, demographics, borough and precincts, (2) an estimate of criminal summonses and associated warrants that would have been issued had the CJRA not gone into effect, (3) outcomes including dispositions for criminal and civil summonses and warrants related to non-appearance for criminal summonses,and (4) community service utilization by offense type and demographics.

Key Findings:

  • Overall: In the first year after CJRA, there was a 94% decline in the issuance of criminal summonses for CJRA offenses, and a 93% decline in associated warrants for failure to appear.
  • CJRA likely resulted in approximately 123,000 fewer criminal summonses and approximately 58,000 fewer warrants issued citywide in the 18 months post-implementation.
  • 87% of summonses for CJRA offenses are now being issued as civil summonses.
  • Post- CJRA, court appearance rates for CJRA summonses are similar in criminal and civil court.